What I Gave Up For Lent

The thing I usually give up for Lent is abstinence, but it turns out that my deprivation this year was more substantial. As you’ll both know, for a while I’ve not been listening to, watching or reading the news. It turns out, entirely by coincidence, that the day I decided to do this was Ash Wednesday, so I decided that I should return to the world of current events on Easter Sunday.

So what’s changed? Not much. It’s a case of Meet The New Boss, Same as the Old Boss. There is still conflict in the Middle East. There is still conflict in Ukraine. There is still antisemitism. There is still transphobia. The England team invariably loses. If Norwich City gets promoted to the Premiership, it’s bound to be relegated given another year, two at most. The governments of those countries that feature prominently in the news seem as inept/venal/corrupt as ever. Some politicians/football managers/celebrities have disappeared from the feeds, to replaced by other politicians/football managers/celebrities identical (to me) in all but name. King Charles III and his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, have been seriously ill, but are now getting better. This is a good thing, but people are becoming ill, and getting better, all the time. Except that some get worse.

So, what did I miss?

As it turns out, nothing much. So my return to the world of news was not marked by a sudden rush to buy all the papers, log on to the news websites every five minutes or impose a hush when news bulletins come on to the radio, still less the TV. Instead, I find myself bumping into the news in a much more muted, less enthusiastic way than I once did. I’ve not bought a newspaper (I find them all universally dreadful). The only periodicals to which I subscribe are The Literary Review (which I read avidly) and The Spectator (which I dip into only now and then when I’m feeling especially depressed). I’m willing to bet that one would have to wait many months — perhaps years — before the news became substantially different. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So why are people (some people anyway) obsessed with news? I have no idea. It all seems so — well — trivial. The only thing likely to stir the sludge of my cynicism is the re-election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, if only to confirm my dim view of the human condition, for the section of humanity represented by Trump seems to be intent on diminishing the reproductive self-government of women, and it seems a truth that’s self-evident (to me) that the reproductive self-government of women is the only thing worth getting steamed up about, as any and all benefits experienced by humans in general, such as increased health, wealth, welfare, contentment, education and longevity stem, ultimately from that sauce source. Societies that restrict the empowerment of women will either fail to develop, or go backwards.

In sum, my experience of news abstinence (I have coined the term nayesrein) is the cultivation of a kind of Philosophic Repose (on a good day) or Swiftian detachment (on a less good day). For in the end, we’re all doomed.

About Henry Gee

Henry Gee is an author, editor and recovering palaeontologist, who lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets, inasmuch as which the contents of this blog and any comments therein do not reflect the opinions of anyone but myself, as they don't know where they've been.
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