I realised recently that I’ve been living under a big rock and I have no idea what’s going on in the world.
Back home, I was pretty up to date with the news. I would surf Stuff in my two ten-minute breaks at work, usually reserving one to do the Daily Trivia Quiz, which of course I aced, since I used the other to skim the headlines and read at least the leading paragraphs of the big or interesting stories. We all know that modern journalism tends to mean that the final three paragraphs are a rough rewrite of the first three to gain column inches, or have devolved toward some key quotes from the murder victim’s grandma’s neighbours 5th form history teacher who met the deceased once and ‘isn’t it just an awful shame?’
While I didn’t actively seek to watch the 6 O’Clock news unless there was something I was following, it tended to just be on in my Dixon St flat. Unless you watch neighbours or can stand repeats of Joey (let’s face it, who could stand it the first time round), there’s not a lot competing with the headlines, and so it was background noise as the factions of the house trailed in and cooked and ate and caught up on the day.
The funny thing with the news is that, like with any daily show, the more you watch it, the more you HAVE TO watch it. Just like Shortland Street on a Friday, there’s always a cliffhanger to get you tuning in on Monday. Will David Bain be found guilty (again)? Will John Key say something stupid (again)? Will all the new grads leave for London (again)?
And so I watched more and read more and knew more news. As it became increasingly tied in with my work, I enjoyed smugly sitting back with insider knowledge while my flatmates debated the merits of a big case and I enjoyed secretly having more info that the journos. Sometimes the reverse was true, and the reports would tip me off about something I needed to bring to my bosses’ attention which could affect reputations, jobs, or lives.
When I left NZ I wanted to stay connected to what was happening outside of what my friends and family would think to mention, and I still surfed Stuff daily, especially on the issues I was already aware of. But as the known cases faded, so did my attention.
Traveling is one thing. It takes you both into and outside of the world. When I think back to my travels on first moving to the UK it seems like an age ago, whereas saying goodbye to my fam & friends prior to this seems like just yesterday. Traveling is one of those time-warps like a three hour exam, where the time is so long and so fast at once. Exciting days pass quickly but it also seems like an age because so many more memories are retained than everyday life.
You inevitably miss what’s going on in the rest of the world, because you’re too busy exploring a particular corner, but the big new still gets through. Though I had no clue what was happening at home, I remember where I was on May 2, 2011: our Topdeck tour group gripped seat-backs in fear as our supplementary Italian driver made hurtling corners out of smooth bends on the way from Orvieto to Rome. But the bus erupted in murmurs of mixed feelings as he stammered, in such broken English that we couldn’t be sure we’d heard right, that the radio had just announced that the goal of ten years and countless lives had been accomplished: Osama Bin Laden was dead. Each pair of seat-buddies looked at each other unsure how to react, except for the two US Army boys, who were at once elated and whooping and charging up the aisles, and also dismayed at being denied their chance to shoot him dead.
Fast forward to my first months in London, and I had pretty much stopped trawling the news-back-home. There’s no such thing as ’10-minute-breaks’ in London. Unless of course you are British, in which case every ten minutes is your 10-minute-break, but we’ve talked about the work ethic here before.
However, even once I started working I was still perusing the daily papers thrust at me on the way into the tube home. Terrible journalism aside, it was still news, and free, and something to avoid eye contact with on the packed Central Line. During the Olympics I followed the highlights more on the page than the screen, thanks to my lack of a tv and/or time to watch.
Fast forward again, and I decline the tube-news on a daily basis – either because it’s easier to get the bus home, or because I’m sick of the cheap ink on hands and the appalling wastage of paper. Or, I hate to say it, because I can get my news online. I’m absolutely not someone who thinks print is dead, but I can get better news at pinkisthenewblog than from the Evening Standard, let alone a decent online news site like The Guardian.
The problem is, though, that I haven’t been reading The Guardian either. Life has become so busy, so pressured that… Who am I kidding? I spend enough time watching The Walking Dead or, much, much worse, 2 Broke Girls (appalling, but addictive, I don’t it recommend at all), that I can’t really harp on about ‘no time to read the news’. And yet I also feel somewhat justified about my watching habits since the only rubbish I do watch is on my computer, when either eating (can’t do much else then as need hands to shovel food into face), or getting ready for work (shoveling makeup and clothes on self), or when trying to sleep and needing some mindlessness to mute the busy brain (shoveling non-thoughts into head).
As bizarre as it sounds (especially to me), I haven’t watched a telly in my own home since I’ve been in London (currently 9 months and counting). This isn’t necessarily by choice, but has become a habit of its own, and means that I only watch shows I care enough about to stream. I don’t know about you, but it seems odd to stream the news.
Generally, I get my news from Facebook. I have super awesome sexy-brained friends who post interesting thoughts about interesting stories, I follow some news sites, and I have enough friends that I trust someone will post something on that issue or other.
But the weird thing is that this backseat approach to news means I’m suddenly the one gawped at for not knowing the top stories. I remember lying on the floor of our Dixon Street apartment, having a competition with KJM involving bouncing our swiss balls off the ceiling (totally legit exercisey use for swiss balls) and invoking to her the magnificence and breadth of the universe. Then last weekend she mentioned the name ‘Pistorius’ and I was like, ‘oh, yeah, what’s going on with him, I keep seeing stuff on Fail Blog’. She gaped, appalled, and I hung my head in shame.
The same goes with the abdicating Pope. All I know is from the interweb jokes, and despite a clear consensus that he’s giving up the ghost (so to speak, or perhaps literally, I don’t know), I have, as at posting, failed to look up this issue.
I’m an intelligent person and by no means apathetic about the state of the world. I have every ability and desire to think about and comment on the state of the nation/s. I may feel removed from my own society by distance, I may feel removed from my current society by foreignness, but is there any excuse for me to remove myself from knowing what’s happening in the world because I’m ‘too busy’ with London?