The Dangers of Presentism
Inside a Moment

Thinking Locally, Acting Locally?

TvIn a post entitled "My Village, My Problem," Catherine Claire wonders to what extent being well-informed about the world outside our local community is productive or even biblical. Her thinking on this is prompted by a letter written by C.S. Lewis, where he considers the same question and says, in part, this: "It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know)" (C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter of Dec. 20, 1946). It's worth considering to what information we need to subject ourselves and to what end.

A year or so ago I read, rather belatedly, the late Neil Postman's critique of televison, particularly network news, entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. His point was that most televsion news was not to inform, but to entertain. We find it titillating. There is little to nothing we can do about what we see and yet we continue to watch, almost voyeuristically. Well, I found myself in agreement. I quit the news. Now when I see it I find it repulsive and annoying. The sensationalistic stories, the cult of personality, the jabbering heads, and the lack of any serious in depth coverage is terrible. Mostly, I do not watch.

Despite its drawbacks and editorial bias, I do read the local newspaper. There are useful articles with some depth at times (I'm not talking about USA Today, which is like TV), and there is local information that I may be able to do something with (like an article about good hikes in the area). I also read Time (which has more in depth coverage than TV news) and World Magazine (for a decidedly and admitted Christian perspective on the news. I do find some things I can pray for this way, and I am helped in an understanding and appreciation of my community and world.

I suppose what I object to is the immediacy of network news, or even internet news. It makes everything seem urgent or important. It may not be. And it certainly may not be something I need to worry about. You know, I can do very little about global warming, whatever its cause. But I can listen to a friend's problem, help a needy family, and pick up trash in the park near our home. That's thinking locally and acting locally.