EU immigration, ISIS, Ebola, the global economic slowdown – these are part of the plethora of issues we are confronted with on daily basis through newspapers, newswires, social networks and other media. It is tiring as a consumer to regularly wade through headlines that are effectively trying to convince us that life, or the times, as we know it, is over.
There will be no more economic booms for developed countries, finance specialists say. The West is damned if it does and damned if doesn’t in relation to the Middle East, commentators argue. Migrants from across Europe, and beyond, are destroying opportunities and culture for locals, scaremongers say. And Ebola. Well, no one raised an eyebrow on this until it was contracted by a white person.
The problem with scare stories, even if they bear a thread of truth, is that they are a distraction from what matters most. If we weren’t so focused on impending doom, we might be more cooperative with one another. We might find we have more commonalities with foreigners than differences. We might remember that pain feels the same regardless of the colour of our skin or our native tongue.
It is curious that humans, who have proved highly resilient throughout the centuries, are so obsessed with the Apocalypse. It is no secret that fear is a great tool for ensuring control. This is as evident in domestic violence as it is in political manifestos decrying the ‘foreigner’. But surely being aware of this, we would exercise more common sense. We should demand answers from the multitude of information streams feeding us half-truths. Or failing that, we should succumb to apathy and withdraw ourselves from the democratic process. Voting blindly for the sake of it is dangerous.
Polish blogger Natalia Wiśniewska recently published a post cautioning her countrymen on relocating to London. She said their standards of living would most likely drop and that they would be unable to make significant savings. While she agreed it was a great city to start your career, boost your profile, and feel “at the centre of the world”, it was not a destination for long-term living and prosperity. I couldn’t agree more. But media portrayals suggest standards of living in Poland are more similar to Vietnam than Britain. It is this easy play on ignorance that distorts truth and manipulates good people into misguided decisions, such as on immigration policy.
If consumers are not prepared to challenge discourse, seek out the other side of an argument, or read beyond unsubstantiated headlines, perhaps they should pull out of democracy. Wouldn’t governments do a better job if they weren’t determined by electorates who fail to take personal responsibility in a process that is entirely centred on this tenet. It has been said that democracy is in crisis – that it has failed us. But let’s take some liability by accepting that we have failed democracy. We have allowed it to become a fast-food-style process where we expect top results with minimum effort. As clichéd as it is, you get out what you put in. We have the system we deserve, and there is only one way to improve it.