Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"To Have a Voice, You Have to Listen"

"It's the easiest thing in the world to demonize those who have different opinions than you. It is much harder to actually walk in their shoes." 

On Saturday, Stina and I went to see Anderson Cooper deliver a speech entitled, "Reflections on the Journalist's Role in Presidential Elections and on World Events." I was so impressed with his speech (and his suit, and his piercing blue eyes, and his dreamy white hair....oh, oops, I digress) that I took out my program and began jotting notes and ideas and reflections down. I wanted to share a few of them here with you, and they aren't in any comprehensible order, but I thought them worthy of a discussion.


Cooper, perhaps more than most Americans today, has been witness to some of the most atrocious acts of human cruelty. He has seen the genocide of Rowanda and the current devastation in the Congo, just to name a few. When listening to his tales, I sat and contemplated the seeds that lie within each of us that we choose to foster or not. There are seeds of evil and seeds of good. How do we decide which to foster? How do we remember to choose the good? How can we work more towards a unity than towards constant division?

 What is the power of information?
Why do we seem content, as a nation, to focus on the frivolities of news, instead of that which is truly newsworthy? The stakes in American history have never been higher--look at the Middle East, especially Afghanistan--what forces are shaping what goes on there? In this age of instant information--where are you getting YOUR information? Who is slanting it? Has the information you are reading been checked and double checked? Information is one of the most powerful forces on earth today- and it is OUR responsibility to make sure that we are getting the right information (ahem...Obama is a Terrorist was a big fallacy that I received in so many email forwards this past year I about tore my hair out!!)

The government may fail us here, but as individuals, we can find truth and facts.

Why must we be so divided?
We each tend to lean towards a political viewpoint. I didn't post a lot of political blogs during the election, because I tend to internalize my viewpoints a lot. I do not affiliate myself with either party. I do not claim Republican or Democrat (ok, sometimes I do, because in Utah, it's just fun to play Devil's Advocate to so many blind sided Republicans)--you'd probably be surprised for some of the people I voted for over the course of my life, but somehow I have always been able to see both sides of an argument. (And this doesn't feel like a virtue, it feels like a curse because I have THE HARDEST time making decisions)--But here is a question--why does their have to be a Republican Truth and a Democratic Truth? Why do so many choose to see life through their view of the truth--when it is really only a limited lense (this extends beyond politics, doesn't it?) I've always tried to focus more on FACT than on OPINION--and truthfully, most talk shows, most radio shows, most of every type of media slants it's group of facts with a bit of opinion. 

What happens when Tragedy Strikes You?
So many disasters cover the globe on a daily basis. All of us want to believe that this tragedies will never touch us, but they can, they most likely will, and in a split second, our worlds will change. This is what the word "FRAILTY" means. And I think it is our ability to recognize our frailty that makes us see our humanity more clearly. Cooper talked of what is going on in the CONGO--in the past ten years, six million people have been killed in the Congo alone. Cooper has witnessed first hand the very specific "War against Women" as he referred to it. Rape is being used as a weapon, as a means of control, as a means of keeping women down. He has interviewed several women recently who have been victims of the newest trend in crime. It appears that men, or groups of men, will rape a woman, and then insert a gun into her vagina and then pull the trigger. And the amazing part, several of these women are surviving, but their lives are ruined, and their bodies are ruined. 

Why did he share these stories? To remind us of the fleetingness of life. To remind us that we lose sight of lives that are different from ours. 

It's not pretty to hear, is it?

So, do we ignore it?

Do we send money to help?

What is our responsibility here?

What, really, is there for me to do?

Wouldn't it be better just to not pay attention to these stories?

That's what America seems to think. The stories that get told to the general public are the stories that get the highest ratings. These are not stories about the Congo, they are not stories about global warming...it's stories about Paris Hilton and the latest James Bond movie....

RATINGS are the greatest threat to news coverage!!!

And apparently, as a people, we could all start there, couldn't we? Couldn't we all start with a dedication to turn off the crap and demand to be told the stories that maybe we should be rallying around?


Stina said...

I'm so glad you took notes. I was really impressed by his passion and point of view. And not too shabby to look at either.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Great post D'Arcy - I've long thought what "passes" for news these days is anything but. I get most of my news from NPR. I find them to be MUCH less sensationlist, and much less self-congratulatory than the Big Three....

And you are right ... as far as mainstream news outlets - they go by the motto "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead". It's all about RATINGS and MARKET SHARE. It's literally a business transaction.

Marie said...

In American life, war is a game (sports, video games, movies). We currently have a volunteer army. People don't starve to death here, and those who do starve to death in far-off lands are just more actors on the same TV screen that brings us James Bond.

People are people. It's not that American people are lesser moral beings than anyone else -- it's just that we've been cocooned and pampered for generations -- sheltered from war in our own land, against the world's worst poverty. If those suffering now had lived as we do, they would be as apathetic as we are.

Some of the "haves" will always choose information over entertainment, but the majority will not until it touches their own self-interest. And even those who choose to care now and do something now will care a lot more and do a lot more when the pain comes home, when it touches them directly. (Again, because we are human, not because we are uniquely selfish.)

We're no different than any other overfed, decadent, self-obsessed society that's ever been. Pleasure feels so good it trumps everything else -- even paying attention to and then dealing with forces that threaten that very pleasure. Fiddling while Rome burns.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I feel such a sense of synchronicity to you and to this post. So many people I connect with via this medium seem to be pondering these same questions. I could really rave on about this, but will refrain. Except to to write:
Be it left or be it right, the slant we choose is someones propoganda. It is up to we individuals to either accept that "truth" and be comforted by it, or read, view, and question several different points of view, find the real questions and be very disturbed about it. The latter is just too much for most, we are overwhelmed by so many other things in our lives. We can read, or see a few horrible pictures on tv of Somolia, Rowanda, the Congo, Afghanistan, and give it a due frown and move on. Yet 9/11 we can all recall that day, where we were, how we felt, because it happened to US and not Someone Else. I was talking on the phone to a man I connected with via blogging a few days ago, he is the head of the Red Cross in Indonesia, has lived there for 20 years now, and was the man in charge of rebuilding there after the horrible tsunami of a few years back. He lived in Afghanistan for years as well. While he finds 9/11 an absolute tragedy, he has seen much worse in his life. As he said, this is what people all over the world live with everyday.
What is happening in the Congo goes back even further than 10 years, but rather 100 years and being colonized by King Leopold of Belgium. When entire villages had their women's and children's hands loped off because the men of the village were not producing the wealth of the land fast enough for Leopold to steal, and hundreds of thousands were killed. All part of the same process that brings us to today.
I am starting to find a lot of information from people I connect with here, viewpoints, web sites, articles I can digest and find what I am after. Places like here, which is a safe environment to share, disagree, agree, and more important to Learn.
I hope the election of Obama will also help us see viewpoints beyond our own in the same way it helped knock over the walls of prejudice for different races, or at least start to knock over.
It is a fragile world in every way, to seek understanding is a huge thing. I do that here. Kia kaha my friend.

Olivia said...

The thing that frustrates me is, that when you're aware of these things, as an individual your options for actions are limited, and you are surrounded by people who would rather just not know about it. I think Americans as a whole love their ignorance, and love their propaganda. I feel awareness is the first step towards action, but when you try to share this kind of information with people they tend to just tune it out or get a "so what am I supposed to do?" attitude about it.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Yeah, I agree. Ratings!!! Bah!

(Oh, by the way, I just finished Mrs. Mike and I loved it. Dang it. Why can't everyone just be like Mike Flanigan?)

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Oh, and sorry my comment is so teeny. I am just still thinking about the Northwest Territories and diptheria and babies dying. Can't get it out of my head. You understand?

Laura said...

Maybe there can be some sort of deal made: for every frivolous story about a celebrity, there needs to be one real story about what is happening in the world.

I don't know if his point is right--just look at the medium we are using. There are many blogs and websites run by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and people who doing work in diverse places in the world that are being found simply by searching for it. Sure, being on the news and talked about is important, but this has not stopped people from getting the information and doing the work.

mapelba said...

Good points. I despair when my students take no interest anything but popular gossip. They roll their eyes or shrug... and these are not all teenagers mind you. Plenty of my students are adults.

What all need is to be able to feel for other people no matter who they are--and the rest of what we have to will follow.

smiles4u said...

First of all, great thought provoking post and I love that quote by him. You have given me much to think about here. I like you, am not affiliated with either party and find myself torn with seeing and understanding both sides of an argument. And you are right it's not a virtue,it's a curse! :)

Much of what you said here is why I don't watch the news and when I do, it is why I question the truth in it. I have never gotten into the news about celebritys. When I listen or watch stories such as what you shared here, it breaks my heart and I struggle with what I am suppose to do with this. My heart gets burdened to do more than just sit here in my safe little world...it feels kind of hopeless though. And I wonder if that isn't how a lot of people feel too? I wonder if it isn't that people don't care...(okay, I am sure there are those that don't but I like to believe that there are more that care then don't), it's that we don't always know what we can do to change things.

Seeing people suffer breaks my heart to the core. For me, it's doing what I can right here in my little part of the world. But, I always have this burden in my heart to do more. Bless you my friend for sharing this wonderful story.

D'Arcy said...

Stina--thanks for always keeping me up to date with ways we can spend time with cool men on the weekends!!

D'Arcy said...

HWHL--Yes, somehow the way people conduct their lives and their consciences have somehow become a business. Curse you Rupert Murdoch!!!

D'Arcy said...

Marie, it's so interesting that you compare this to Rome, as I am teaching my students Julius Caesar this month, we have discussed the media and consumerism and violence and spectacle and it's funny how people somehow think that their generation is the first to live in the decadence and abundance (and abundance does usually lead to apathy)--but really, we might not be that much different from Rome....and many other great nations who have met their demise.

D'Arcy said...

Robb-- I have started to follow a bit of Bob's journeys, thank you so much for introducing me to him. I feel that this past year has been a big one for my awakening of the world. I've been awakening to my own power for a few years now (I'm a bit late in the game) but this is the year where I really feel this connection to the world. A connection so deep that I do start to mourn for the pain of mother earth and her inhabitants.

I am seeking, step by small step, to do my own little part. I have come to realize that it is small.

Today in class, as my students and I had long, huge, amazing discussions aobut the world, about the roles they will play, about their thoughts, about so many things, I asked them, "Do you guys discuss like this in other classes? Do you talk like this and guess and formulate and plan?" The answer was a resounding "No." Most teachers just let the kids do their homework with their iPods in their ears because it keeps them quiet. When one girl looked at me today and said, "No one really listens to us that much, no one asks us our opinions like you do, I love coming to this class."

To many people that would be a small thing, but for me, I interact with 150 students EVERY week, I get 150 kids to THINK about things. Yes, 150 is such a small number, or it is a great number. Right now, I am choosing to think of it as a great number. That's all I can do in my sphere of influence.

D'Arcy said...

Olivia, I posed this question to my students today. One girl I thought had an interesting answer.

I said to them, after a long discussion of hard topics...

"So, what can you guys do?"

Many of them seemed to get stumped here.

And one girl said,

"This may seem small, but I think we could all begin to savor life."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Last year, one of my teachers gave every person in the classroom a piece of chocolate. She told us we couldn't chew it, we couldn't bite it, we needed to just sit there and let it melt in our mouths. She talked about savoring. We need to do that more with life. Instead of dulling our senses with TV and radio and noise, we need to start savoring life and when we do, we will be more aware of what is going on around us."

This girl is going to change this world, I absolutely know it!

D'Arcy said...

Jenn--Mike Flannigan has been my absolute dream man since I was 13. It's hard to focus on other things when he is on your mind. My favorite book EVER!

D'Arcy said...

Hi Laura!!!

Absolutely, there are SO many good places to get truth, but they seem to have to be sought after. If we just veg in front of the TV and let it fill us with it's slants and horrors, then that is what we will manifest in our lives.

It's been interesting, studying the Fall of Rome, to go through the cycle of a democracy--Here is some information that I shared with my class:

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years'

'During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. from bondage to spiritual faith;

2. from spiritual faith to great courage;

3. from courage to liberty;

4. from liberty to abundance;

5. from abundance to complacency;

6. from complacency to apathy;

7. from apathy to dependence;

8. from dependence back into bondage'

I think of all the ways that American is in bondage. This doesn't mean being in chains, it means being in bondage to capitalism, to debt, to eating disorders, to hollywood and so many other things I see taking control of these kids' lives.

We do need to teach them where to find their truth and how to keep themselves free of the bondage that is out there.

D'Arcy said...

mapelba--it is SO true. I have one young boy in my class who carries around his Louis Vitton handbag, wears shirts with Paris Hilton, has a Calvin Klein photos on his binder and always talks about his future as a model. He can tell you anything going on in Hollywood, but he lacks the concentration to ever read a novel by Charles Dickens. It's disheartening.

D'Arcy said...

smiles4u--ABSOLUTELY!!!! It is what we can do!! We each have a sphere of influence, we each have the world around us, we each are able to affect people and in turn they affect people. This is why "It's a Wonderful Life" will forever speak to us, because I really believe that we can help our world by helping those closest to us. Think of teachers and friends and role models that you have had in your life who have shaped you.

I remember living in France I became associated with a mother of 6. My friend worked for her, so I often visited them. This mother, who barely even knows me at this point in my life, is the person that I feel I have learned THE MOST about how to be a mother. It was onlly a few times, over a year, and yet, she has changed my life, and the life of my future children forever and for the better.

Keep up the good work my friend!!!

Rowena said...

Again, you get me thinking. Since having kids, I haven't spent much time learning about the world. I don't watch or read the news and all I really get is about an hour of Charlie Rose playing in the background when the kids go to bed. (I've learned a lot from him, though.)

But I agree with your student about savoring life... and also recognizing what is really important in life.

I'm living small in my life right now. I spend very little. Go pretty much nowhere. Don't socialize, but I raise my kids, I paint and write, I reach out via this really amazing medium of the internet. Maybe when my kids get a little older I can enter into the global stage again.

In the meantime...

Make sure you stop by my blog this week. I am hosting a giveaway of an original Flying Girl! I didn't want you to miss it.

Hey, It's Ansley said...

Amen! I might be wrong but I believe there was a time when news was exempt from ratings. Meaning that the real news, all the news, horrifying, alarming, non-hollywood, could be shared. I recently rewatched Good Night and Good Luck and was saddened all over again by how our media has changed.

And AC is the perfect combo of hot and smart!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I believe your part is much bigger than you may realize.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Keep an eye on that student - the "savoring" student - she will be making a big impact somewhere someday.

And, D'Arcy - SERIOUSLY - YOU are making a big difference in your capacity as teacher. Really. So many teachers don't care, or even if they do, they don't take the time to challenge their students to really dig deep and THINK about these issues, and what they, individually, can do.

BRAVO to you, my friend.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Amazing post d'arcy. I'm running behind in my reading (you know how busy we can get as teachers). But I am glad I didn't overlook this post.

I like that you shared the student who mentioned "savoring" life. And the lesson with the chocolate? How awesome was that?

I donate monthly to an organization called "Women for Women International." There is a badge on my website for it. The donation goes to a woman in the Congo. She has even written me a letter. I wish I had more so I could give more.