The news is always news. But of late it seems to be more news than ever it was. And yes, that may have always been the case. That present news overwhelms that of the past.
I’m an addict of internet news, that which is becoming more and more the only kind of news there is. For more and more what we mean by news is what we read on our smart phones, pads, and computers. Print is being unfeelingly, if not already, shoved aside (example, Time Magazine, where near Rockefeller Center remains only an empty shell, the Time & Life Building, still standing but without Time at 1271 Avenue of the Americas). More and more print is a relic of the past, much like the horse and carriage that now the new mayor of NY would even remove from its place of last refuge, Central Park.
In what follows I’ll refer to the internet news as just news, for the internet has become the principal conveyor of the news of the world. And this is the news I read. Just during the past week several items, and probably like real news at any time, got me reeling. As I read I wondered what was one to make of it all?
There are always those of course who would still try to understand, if not control the news of the world, that which is at best the account of what is always man’s wild ride into the future. Not me. More and more, while marveling at everything that is happening, I just try to hang on, and at best perhaps share my thoughts with a few others. Here are just several of those items I’m referring to along with a few idle thoughts:
First headline —World War II Skeletons Washed From Graves by Rising Seas.
It must have been Al Gore or one of his ilk who penned this headline, obviously intended to prick the deniers of global warming. It seems that the remains of 26, probably Japanese soldiers, had been recovered on the isle of Santo, one of the Marshall Islands group, a remote archipelago between Hawaii and the Philippines.
According to the Bloomberg writer the event points to a stark future for low-lying island nations as the planet warms causing sea levels to rise. The Marshall Islands, a string of more than 1,000 such isles with a population of about 70,000, is about 2 meters (7 feet) at its highest point. Just this week the UN said that the tropical western Pacific region is experiencing almost four times the global average rate of sea level increase, with waters creeping up by 12 millimeters (half an inch) a year between 1993 and 2009. The global average pace is 3.2 millimeters a year.
Reading about the dead being washed from their beds does make global warming a bit more real. Yes, no? Nothing like the rising of the dead to make us take something seriously. But most likely for the global warming deniers, and in particular the Key Partiers, even this won’t be enough to dislodge them from their fixed positions.
Next Headline — The European Central Bank imposes negative interest rates of -0.1% on eurozone banks.
(Mario Draghi: “Together, the measures will contribute to a return of inflation to levels closer to 2%”)
Negative interest rates, that was new to me. Put your money into the bank to get negative interest? Why would anyone do that? Well as I read on it seems that the eurozone banks are holding onto a lot of cash, not putting it into a depressed economy where the European Central Bank, the ECB, would like to see it go. “If they want us to hold onto their cash it’s going to cost them,” no less than it would cost those who would put their horses into a livery in Dodge City.
Will it work? I don’t know. Evidently Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB thinks it will. He also announced other unconventional measures, but he stopped short of instituting a large asset-buying program like the quantitative easing (QE) undertaken by the US Federal Reserve.
Mr Draghi said that the whole package of measures was aimed at increasing lending to the “real economy”. Then he went on to say, “Now we are in a completely different world.”
Well Mario, I’d say, we are always in a completely different world. Wasn’t it the Greek, Heraclitus of Ephesus, who said in 500 BC, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” For on a second immersion the waters will all be different. No more or less than whatever it is that drives the European economy.
Third Headline — Stop Holding Us Back. This year, one-third of the nation’s African-American and Latino young men will not graduate.
Well my first thought here was, this is old news. This is not news. We’ve heard it all before. And in fact much of what is said about the public schools has been said repeatedly, on innumerable earlier occasions.
We hear over and over again the same things about our failing public schools because while the school problems have not changed the people seeing them have changed and are writing about them for the first time. It never seems to occur to each new wave of school reformers that what is at fault if the thing itself, compulsory classroom schooling for everyone for 10 or more years.
The present structure has never succeeded for more than a minority of the young, and has never produced the able and knowledgeable citizens of Horace Mann’s original vision of the common school.
I’ve certainly known ever since I’ve become aware of their existence that minority, poor and otherwise disadvantaged students, living in our large inner cities, or in impoverished circumstances in the country, are not being well served by the schools. The article points out their failure to graduate, but that’s probably only a symptom, the least of the problems or the schools.
Perhaps this last “headline” shouldn’t even have been on my list. As I say, it wasn’t news. But to turn now to the last item on my list, and a real news item, well this one is a real shocker.
Fourth and Last Headline —Insurgents seize Iraqi city of Mosul as security forces flee.
Nothing better than this one to get one thinking. Wasn’t it George Bush who took us into Iraq in 2003? And at the time most of our leaders were for the invasion, although President Obama, then an Illinois state senator, was an invasion opponent. Our troops were there some 8 years, until 2011 when President Obama ordered them out.
Why were we there? That’s the question we’re asking, especially today when Iraqi cities and towns are falling once again to a Sunni insurgency, the same ones that our troops had defended at great cost in American lives, 4500, and American treasure, $730 billion.
And again today we ask for what? We were going to help Iraq became a liberal democracy. We didn’t of course and that failure may be even a greater failure than that of our schools to educate our children.
Yes, this news item is a shocker. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was seized by members of a militant Sunni Islamist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), an Islamic group that was disowned by Al Qaeda for being too extreme and uncompromising.
ISIS has begun imposing Sharia law in Syrian towns it controls, like Raqqa, forcing women to wear the full veil, or niqab, in public and banning music.
The group is also known by some as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Its members include Europeans as well as Chechens, Turks and many fighters from other Arab countries, some attracted by the conflict in Syria. What do they want? To establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, stretching across the region.
And while these and other world shaking if not world shattering events were taking place, we enjoyed the NBA finals and awaited the soon to begin World Cup of Football in Brazil.
And I found myself during the most recent siege and capture of Mosul watching the San Antonio Spurs beat the Heat, 111-92, the Spur players at one point during the first half sinking 90% of their shots and going up by 25, while at the end of the half they had shot 76% and were up by 21, 71-50, that good for another NBA Finals record.
To read and think, just about these several events, let alone the hundreds, thousands of others of no less significance, is to lose oneself. And one’s life becomes a following of what is happening in the world.
How is it possible to go on being just oneself, maintain a semblance of a normality among one’s friends and family, when the world’s events and the world’s actors, as transmitted over the worldwide web, the internet, are forcing themselves on you, are crying out to be seen and heard, and all too often push the little happenings of our own little lives into insignificance.