As I write this, the whole world is riveted by the troubles in Egypt. You can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV or the radio without another to-the-minute update of the latest clash between ordinary Egyptians and the police.
“Seriously, is it just me or is all this coverage on Egypt just a little bit too much?” my flatmate Saffy asked a few days ago at breakfast. She flipped the page on her iPad. “Look at this! It just keeps going and going!”
Amanda looked up from her cereal. “Well, it has important consequences for the world. The unrest is making the stock market jittery. And when my shares are shaken, I am not a happy girl!”
Saffy’s legendary bosom deflated. “It’s not as if there’s anything new to report. Day after day, it’s the same thing: Riots, clashes, people getting injured, America is upset. Then it’s more riots, more clashes and some more people die.”
“They’re fighting for democracy!” Amanda said, her brow furrowed. “Isn’t that important?”
“Sure it is,” Saffy said. “But so is the state of my bowels and I’m not getting front page news! I’ve been constipated for four days now and lemme tell ya, the extra gas levels aren’t doing the ozone layer much good!”
Amanda got up with her bowl of cereal and disappeared into the kitchen.
Without missing a beat, Saffy turned to me. “It’s why I try not to read the newspaper anymore!” she declared. “There’s just too much bad news in this world. It’s all so very depressing!”
As I later said to Karl, just when you thought Saffy couldn’t surprise you anymore, she went and came up with an insight like this.
I guess it’s a little like funerals. The first one you go to is so unimaginably sad, what with everyone red eyed and weepy. The second one, you still cry a little but you find yourself looking around the church and wondering why no one has dusted the pews.
By your tenth funeral, you’re mentally making to-do lists while the minister is rabbiting on about being welcomed into God’s Kingdom and later, you wonder why, if God’s Kingdom is that great, everyone is so upset that the recently deceased has gone there.
Same with the evening news. You greet reports of the first casualty of a war with horror. By the end of the third week of the same war, the horror is replaced first with sadness and abject hopelessness, and finally with faint interest as you get dressed for dinner with your friends.
I think it’s because the brain can take only so much horror. It’s like watching “Kill Bill” or “Inglourious Basterds”. After a while, all that blood and gore is no longer shocking because you’ve shut down and stop acknowledging any of it.
This morning, Saffy sat down to breakfast. She picked up the paper and began flipping through it in silence. The paper rustled like a metronome. She never stopped to read an article. In less than a minute, she’d finished flipping through it.
“You know what,” she said, “somebody should come up with a newspaper that only prints good news!”
Amanda peered up from her 8DAYS horoscopes.
“No really, I mean it,” Saffy continued. “No bad news. Just good stuff. Like people getting married. Someone winning the lottery. A new recipe for chocolate cake. A cure for pimples. Madonna adopting another child from Africa. Brad Pitt leaving Angelina Jolie for me. That sort of thing.”
Amanda said she wasn’t sure there’d be enough of that to fill an entire newspaper.
“And what does that say about us?” Saffy demanded.
The question bothers me because like so many people, I’ve come to accept bad news every time I turn on the TV or open a newspaper. What worries me is the fact that so little of it seems to affect me anymore. Because it’s happening to someone else in some other country and as long as it doesn’t directly affect me, I’ll just get on with my day.
When did I stop caring? And will more good news help me recover a degree of compassion?
Saffy thinks it will. She says she’s starting her campaign for more good news publications by giving her best friend Sharyn a year’s subscription to 8DAYS on the basis that it usually has lots of good, clean, family fun news. Except for when it covers Hollywood sex scandals. “And pictures of Christopher Lee’s latest ugly outfit and hairdo,” she added. “Seriously, that Fann Wong needs to put her foot down. I mean, she lives with the man. Has she seen his wardrobe lately? Talk about bad news!”