Good News

I walked briskly along the waterfront just when the light was fading and only the sugar-coated north shore mountains where still lit by the dipping sun. I was early and waited for Camp who showed up in an unusual good mood. ‘What’s up? I asked.

            ‘I had a record day of sales today. Maybe people got wound up with all this Black Friday and Cyber Monday hype, making them feel like they missed something. Also, more people are reading books this time of year when it gets dark so soon and they’re stuck inside.

 ‘Did you have any black Friday sales?’

 ‘You’re kidding right. How about ‘Free Books Tomorrow’ or ‘Buy two Books for only one Bill.’

            ‘Talking about books; I’m reading ‘Human Kind’ by Rutger Bregman, I’m sure you know it. It’s a hopeful history of our species and full of positive stories about how disaster and wars bring out the best in us, not the worst as so many want us to believe, from old philosophers like Hobbes to anthropologists like Chagnon, to today’s tabloids and news outlets.’

            ‘Yes, I know about the book; I sold a few copies of it. Makes fools out of cynics like me but Rutger also gets it right. His claim that we are all addicted to {negative} News has an uncanny whiff of truth to it.’

‘More than a whiff I think, it positively calls it what it is. Both you and me fall into that category of News junkies. He makes a good case by pointing out that the News is like a drug, with a daily consumption rate of over an hour for millions of people. We gobble up the News from print, the internet, TV, and social media platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter who know exactly what shocks and horrifies us and makes us click so they can target us with personalized ads of stuff we don’t need and mumbo jumbo conspiracy and op-ed clips dressed up as News.’

‘Yes, the News are mostly depressing and make you feel helpless and pessimistic and as Rutger points out: we get served up a skewed and very inaccurate view of the real world which is actually kinder, richer and safer in every way, from extreme poverty to child mortality to violent crime and child labour, which have all plummeted in the past few decades but you wouldn’t get that impression from the CBC News Hour or CNN.’

‘As a Swiss novelist said: News is to the mind what sugar is for the body. We need some of it but not the amount we’re bombarded with every waking minute to the point where we don’t know what is real and what is not, what is true and what is staged or made up. My dad used to listen to the radio news after lunch every day while having a snooze. Mostly local stories and the odd international item like a war or a plane crash that grabbed your attention. That was it.’

‘Nowadays it’s hard to steer clear of mass shootings, war atrocities, floods, erupting volcanos and sociopathic politicians.’

‘You want to hear some good News Camp?

‘Is that an oxymoron?’

‘The good News is that your neighbours, your customers, your friends, your fellow citizen and even strangers would all help you in times of need. They wouldn’t let you lie on the ground if you fell down, they would try and rescue you, at their own peril, if you needed rescuing, they would even share their beer with you if you were desperate. I truly believe that most humans are decent and compassionate.’

‘You really believe that or is it your compatriot Jean-Jacques Rousseau speaking?’

‘I know it Camp, from personal experience.’

‘I’m in a good mood today and just so you don’t think I’m an incurable cynic, I’ll buy the next round. I do have some altruistic bones in me.’

When Vicky came around with our refills, I asked her if she followed the News.

‘Depends what you call the News. If it’s about my cousin being pregnant, I follow her but if it’s about some idiot wanting to be dictator or some wacko shooting up a mall or a celebrity having a face transplant then I try to ignore it. There is nothing I can do about it anyway and if I really want to know something I can always ask you two.’

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