Lazy Luddite Log

31.8.18

Cat Saves Firefighter

This blog is for my 'long-form' writing while other sites are for shorter posts and comments. However sometimes I do something a bit longer away from here and I figure it is worth replicating that content here (for a potentially larger but practically much smaller audience). I have a 'note' on Facebook called Cat Saves Firefighter - Positive Non-Trivial News. This is what it has to say...

It was common practice on nightly news shows to end with a snippet of good news to compensate viewers for all the wars, murders and car crashes. The joke became that it was always firefighers saving a cat stuck up a tree. But this kind of news is trivial and escapist. It hardly gives you a sense of living in a good world. In fact it gives you a greater sense that everything beyond your own neighbourhood is bad.

The purpose of this note is to turn that concept around (hence the cat is saving the firefighter) by presenting positive news that is significant rather than trivial. But is the world good you ask. It is more accurate to say that the world is complex and understanding it always involves an act of interpretation.

Today we are bombarded with news many times a day on our Facebook feeds. Many friends have posted updates saying they cannot take all the bad news coming at them. My response is that there is good news but we rarely get to see it. There are a few factors that keep it from us.

One is that sensationalism sells newspapers (or gets more clicks for websites). We are instinctively drawn to danger and drama and this will favour negative news (whether significant as in wars or trivial as in celebrity divorces).

Another is that news is by its nature about what has only just happened. Incremental developments are overlooked. Some long-term processes like climate change are negative. But others are positive - consider the number of governments who over our lifetimes have abolished the death penalty or the reduction worldwide of absolute poverty.

Another factor is nostalgia. We get to thinking the past was a simpler and kinder time. Possibly it was for us - youth frequently is. But was it a nice time for the world? Are there more crimes now than then or are you just more aware of them now? Have you checked the statistics or just gone with a vague personal impression? Too many of us fall for the fairy-tale of the good old days.

On the other hand some of us had rotten youths. We are guarded as a result and interpret things accordingly. We may even be drawn to sub-cultures that prize cynicism or fetishize doom-and-gloom. Or alternately we may have such exacting standards of what a world should be that nothing will ever meet our expectations.

How much you accept the links that will be shared here depends on all these factors and more. But they will be offered for your consideration. There will however be some restrictions on what I will post.

I mentioned the removal from more-and-more nations of capital punishment. For me as a human rights campaigner this is good news. But for some law-and-order traditionalists this could be bad news. I cannot help them. Links I share here will conform to what I consider good as a political progressive.

I also mentioned climate change. As described by climate scientists this phenomenon is a scary thing. It would be wonderful if they were mistaken. In that sense the rantings of climate change deniers could be deemed good. But it is a deluded position to take and so will be omitted here. What I share will make some effort to conform to evidence and reason.

And then there is the matter of what you choose to focus on. I referred to a reduction globally in absolute poverty but the focus of many is on relative differences in wealth and for them whether things are better or worse will very much be shaped by a kind of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality. In such cases we may have a debate on our hands.

Finally content here will be of some importance. If you want cats saved by firefighters you will have to move on.

Since posting that I have returned many times and appended comments to it providing links to all manner of good news reports. They have all sorts of sources but one that I find particularly useful is an Australian service called Future Crunch. They focus on technological innovation and I feel they sometimes overlook the two-edged nature of technology. However they include a lot of other news on the environmental and human fronts that is overwhelmingly positive. I try to consume all this as part of a well-constituted understanding of our world today.

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