Saturday, December 16, 2006

What's the point of keeping up with the news?

I don't know. I've wondered about this for a long time and haven't got an answer.

Not long ago I avoided all news altogether. I had no idea what was going on outside my own little sphere, and that was good. I was happy being ignorant. The alternative was to know what was going on in the world, and that was bad. I couldn't stop myself getting upset about things. This won't surprise you: most world events are completely beyond my control or influence ;) So there was really no point in worrying about them, seeing there was nothing I could do anyway, but I couldn't stop worrying, so I had to stop the news.

That didn't last. Recently I stumbled across Werner's blog (Soldier of Africa - he's working as a military observer in Darfur) and suddenly realised that the situation in Sudan is one of the worst catastrophes this world has ever seen, and here I am, in blissful ignorance, doing nothing to help. Is that excusable? No.

So now I'm keeping up with the news again, or the Darfur news, anyway. There are untold numbers of other catastrophes and worrying events I could be focusing on too, but no, one is enough. Darfur is it. I'm reading the feeds and writing posts, and now it feels like I'm doing something to help.

And that is completely delusional. What am I actually contributing? Could any of the millions of displaced people in Darfur one day say, "Gee thanks, what you did really helped!"? No.

But the alternative is to do nothing, and that is guaranteed to be no help whatsoever. In other words, I'm hoping that doing something is better than nothing, and anyway, this activity is silencing the voice of my conscience (the one saying "Do something!").

I don't know whether blog posting is helpful, but I'm hoping that any focus on Africa and the events in Darfur will at least not be hurtful. The Australian media's coverage of African matters leaves something to be desired: specifically, some coverage, any coverage, anything at all. And the average Australian's knowledge of Africa is way beyond pitiful. I know this because I am an average Australian.

Look at that decision by the Tamworth City Council yesterday. Six out of nine councillors voted against housing Sudanese refugees, with the Mayor claiming that the refugee programme should be changed because of "the cultural difference of African people, things such as their respect of women in their community". It's a ludicrous statement, shameful and embarrassing, but not at all surprising. Why wouldn't an Australian's general knowledge about Africa be hopeless? If our world views are largely shaped by media output (and I think they are) then for most Australians Africa is just that big shape on the map over there. You know the one: the place where all the wild animals live.

So I'll be posting about Darfur now and then, prodded along by yesterday's decision by the Tamworth City Council, and I'd like to thank them for the inspiration. Very kind.