Nowadays reading the news disseminated via newspapers or smartphones is an excruciating experience. Going by the dire headlines, op-eds, hashtags, and WhatsApp forwards, we can expect nothing short of chaos, pandemics, wars, industrial collapse, global warming and assorted crisis situations of apocalyptic proportions within the next few days, if not sooner. Therefore, those of us who read about the supposedly tragic happenings of a foredoomed world, are convinced we will all end up being raped, robbed, murdered or worse.
Even if such perils were to be successfully sidestepped, there is still a veritable field of landmines to be traversed with nary a hope of safety. Odds are still high that one can fall victim to a nuclear holocaust given that all the governments in the world are busy stockpiling weapons of mass destruction or become a flesh-eating zombie from the biological weapons that are being perfected.
Let us not forget that environmentalists insist that the planet is past its sell-by date and we are all on borrowed time. Then there are the human traffickers, Pablo Escobar-wannabe drug dealers and illegal organ harvesters lurking in the shadows. If Hollywood is to be believed, (apparently the glam merchants have hired everybody who can write worth a damn since newspapers and journalists have become obsolete replaced by kids wielding smartphones and bloggers/vloggers) all the monsters from our nightmares are alive, well and baying for blood.
Not surprisingly, fed on a steady diet of negative news, a pall of gloom and doom has descended on all those who feel the need to be well-informed as opposed to the smarter portion of the populace who are too busy playing Candy Crush, indulging the narcissist within by pouting and clicking endless selfies, watching cricket or stalking their favourite celebrity on Instagram without giving a crap about how the rest of the world is faring. Consequently, irrespective of whether the world is a truly terrible place or not, we firmly believe it to be so and are fully convinced it is getting worse by the second. In this cognitive state, reality itself is likely to become shaded by our jaded view of it.
How did this happen? When did we become such negative Nellies? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that though we would never admit it, unique as we mistakenly believe ourselves to be, our opinions are shaped by the opinions of others, most notably by those we follow relentlessly across social media platforms. Which is why it is not surprising, that the overwhelmingly pessimistic news content has spread like a contagion and distorted our perception of an admittedly flawed but beautiful world. The rose-tinted glasses we favoured back when we were clear-eyed kids have been replaced with cynical shades and a morose outlook.
By magnifying the nature of the threats confronting us, we have misled our head and heart into thinking we are under siege and act accordingly. Having prepared the soil to nurture nothing but despair and turmoil, we have weeded out hope and faith. Perhaps this is the great catastrophe of earth-shattering dimensions.
Author of Arjuna, Kamadeva, Shakti, and Yama’s Lieutenant