I’m baaaaaack

July 23, 2008

Ok, well I haven’t actually been gone this whole time (I was out of town for a week) but for some reason I haven’t felt inspiration for blogging in the past couple weeks. For one thing, I’m trying to cut down my procrastination while working and consequently I’m spending less time reading other blogs and browsing the internet, which translates to finding out about fewer things I would potentially blog about. However, I think I’m also feeling a bit discouraged – or perhaps distanced – from thinking about peace. The thing is, issues related to peace do not often play into my everyday life. I live a very peaceful life in general: I live in a small town, and my neighborhood has little violence or crime – in fact none that I have noticed or been aware of; I do not often have serious conflicts with other people; and I earn enough to easily purchase all that I need without worry. Granted, perhaps I do not have conflicts with others because I naturally communicate in a peaceful manner. But my point is that much of the violence and war that is currently going on in this world has little perceived direct impact on my everyday life.

Now, I know that it does actually affect my life. Things like the economy, the environment, and the well-being and happiness of the people in my environment are affected by violence and war in the world. And, for me, simply being aware that such violence is occurring is enough to affect my perspective and attitude towards things. Still, I can only read so many articles about violent events or look at so many non-profits trying to make a difference or read about so many approaches to conflict resolution before I start to feel distanced from it all. I feel discouraged reading about mediation and conflict resolution techniques because the impact they may have had (and I know there have been some successes, although I wonder how long-term those successes are) seems so small compared to all the wars, genocides, and other violence. Then there is the domestic violence, rape apology and general misogyny that I read about on feminist blogs, areas where it seems that so little progress has been made. I think, perhaps, like I discussed in an earlier post, I have reached a point of information overload. I have been paying attention to issues related to peace so much that I have started becoming desensitized to them.

I want very much to make peace relevant to my life; that is, to take actions that I feel are making progress towards creating peace. I would like to work with people, as I feel that would give me the most satisfaction in feeling that I am doing something meaningful. However, I have yet to figure out what this type of work (either volunteer or paid) would be. For the moment, I am volunteering at a food bank, but I’m not sure it is quite what I have in mind (however, I have only been there twice so far and I’m sure there is much I will gain from the experience). I also feel that in order to take this action, whatever it is, I want to study peace and conflict resolution more formally, or with at least more direction, than I have so far. I don’t want to continue just reading news articles and browsing the websites of non-profits aimlessly, but rather I want to read such things with a goal in mind of what I want to gain from reading it or how I want to approach the topic mentally and analytically.

Writing this blog is one way that I have been hoping to find more direction for my interest in peace, but I think so far I have been interested in and been inspired to write about such a diverse set of topics that it hasn’t yet helped with giving direction! Perhaps I am simply still at the exploratory phase, but now, in addition to continuing to explore, I also want to work on narrowing my interest to something more focused.

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information overload, or why I don’t read the news

April 23, 2008

I don’t generally read a newspaper, either print or online. Sometimes I feel like this is an irresponsible thing to do, that I should be keeping myself educated about what is going on in the world. But I just can’t take the news. Most of the time it is either too depressing or just another article on the same old topic not saying much at all. I know that there are terrible things going on all over the world; I don’t need to have the details of each one drummed into me day after day. If the article is about something the United States government has or is doing, it is likely to get my blood boiling, and I really don’t need that kind of stress on a day-to-day basis either. I do occasionally feel that I am missing something by not reading the news (for example, looking at nytimes.com right now I see a few articles which I would most likely find interesting), but it is so hard to do without becoming overwhelmed.

I do try to keep up with a few feminist blogs which include newsy items of interest to feminism. Feministe and Feministing are both multi-author blogs with many updates per day, while The Curvature is written by a single author who manages to post lengthy analyses of various things on average more than once a day. However, I’m starting to find reading even just these three blogs (as well as a few others, such as No Cookies for Me, which are updated less than once a day) somewhat overwhelming. My blog reader has unread items from weeks ago that I will probably never get to. All of the authors write interesting posts and are capable of making me think about something in a new way, but sometimes I just can’t read yet another post about a rape apologist. So much of the news written about on these blogs is negative and it is starting to take its toll on me. In addition, the comment threads on these posts can get quite long, and while I want to read the comments for the posts that interest me the most, it is so much to process. On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that there is a large community of people who share similar values and beliefs with me, and occasionally I even feel inspired to write a comment on one of the posts. It is hard to know how to keep with these blogs without becoming both overwhelmed and desensitized to the types of things that get written about.

To generalize for a moment, I think desensitization is a big problem with the way in which violence and war is written about and shown in the news. When you see similar violent images over and over again (photos in the paper, or even more powerfully, on television), they start to lose their impact on your emotions. And then you start to accept that this is just the way things are. Perhaps I get so easily overwhelmed reading the news precisely because I am not desensitized in the way that most Americans are.

The one news source I read religiously is Ms. Magazine. It comes only four times a year and it is always packed full of well-written, well-researched, thoughtful articles on a variety of topics, with both positive and negative news. I enjoy that all this is encapsulated in a single magazine, which makes it feel more balanced than the daily stream of blog posts. I look forward to each new issue.

This post is a little rambly, but I think the basic question I am asking myself (and you, if you care to respond) is: in today’s culture, with so many media and news sources, how does one keep up with the important things in the news (or the things that are particularly interesting to you) without becoming overwhelmed and/or desensitized?


desensitization is alive and well

April 7, 2008

When the people sitting behind me on the plane this morning asked the young man sitting next to them what he does (I think having already found out he was in the military), he replied in a friendly, conversational tone, “I build bombs”. I was horrified. In fact, I hadn’t heard anything in the conversation up to this point, but the sheer horror of that statement caught my attention. He said it so calmly, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to build things to kill other human beings. Of course, I realize that the weapon industry is huge, so it isn’t exactly a strikingly unusual occupation, but he seemed so detached from the awfulness of bombs. I also realize that most people, unlike me, are desensitized to violence and can easily detach themselves from the negative consequences of their or someone else’s occupation. However, I don’t encounter a live example of that desensitization very often and it was shocking. Such detachment comes at a price to both the individual and the world, and I want to do what I can to work towards a world where people are not numb to the horrers of war and violence, but instead feel deep compassion for the other human beings who are hurt by these things.