Less news, more philosophy

Why are the two related? Because they are two sides of the same coin.

News is an accumulation of the current and the urgent, but not necessarily the important. It is a consolidation of the macro. It concerns a large section of people, and spreads out thin. It is sold to us as being relevant to our lives, but it is entertainment pretending to be useful information. Today’s news has every disease that the entertainment industry does: income based on advertisement, subservience to ratings and a preference for everything that is sensational. It is instant gratification for the masses, so much so that yesterday’s news is already old news. Extensive news reports of the “Royal wedding” last week illustrate every point I have made above.

Philosophy is accumulated wisdom through the ages. It is timeless and important, but we do not perceive its urgency. Its gratification is delayed. It is a distillation of the micro. It concerns every individual, and has passed through a discerning veil of time whose thickness is measured in decades, centuries and even millennia. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Seneca’s letter on the shortness of life, or the message of the Bhagavad Gita are quoted more often today than ever before. They will not become outdated tomorrow.

And why must the two be in competition? Because time is our only finite resource. I wager that if people direct the half-an-hour they spend on prime time news everyday on engaging with philosophy, the world would be a better place. The revolution has already started. People like Maria Popova of BrainPickings and Alain De Botton of The School of Life are spearheading it.

I am optimistic.

2 thoughts on “Less news, more philosophy

  1. I have always had an instinctive distaste for all forms of news media. I was never able to articulate my distaste but I recently read a book which puts news into perspective really well. It’s called “Thinking in Systems” and here is what it had to say –

    Reality is a black box which may or may not have a simple underlying structure. All of us are trying to make sense of the world around us (find out about the black box) for various reasons – some want to get an existential purpose, other want a reliable way of making decisions etc. This analysis can happen at different levels –

    1. Events
    2. Behaviour
    3. Underlying structures which are hidden

    News mainly analyses reality at the level of events. A lot of intellectuals get to the level of behavior (like economists studying patterns of events over time), while very few try to look for the underlying structures which cause systematic behaviors and ultimately, events. Events are the crust of what is happening, not the core. Events are symptoms, not the disease.

    Another mind opening book is “Manufacturing Consent”, which talks about a lot of the problems that you mention.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bala,

    Thanks for your comment, and for bringing up an interesting concept. My hunch is that philosophical truths try to decode the underlying structures that define our behaviour and manifest as events.

    Like

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