I prefer not to watch videos/documentaries of war or natural disasters. Not Now. In my mind the process is over. I don’t want to load my emotional brain with extra input. I watched many events; most of them delayed for less than 24 hours, a few live.
These days I don’t watch the news on TV any more. The ‘ratings’ drive news gatherers to something different: sensation gathering, and not only the gathering, also the creation of it. The remaining fraction of our daily ‘news’ is gossip. Sometimes I hear news fragments on the radio.
I have also stopped reading the news on the internet. The major events reach me any way. I know there is trouble in Mali right now, and I get informed when one or the other mad man uses a gun to shoot innocent people in public places.
It is important that the news footage is indeed shown, seen and read, and kept for later reference. Just like all historical material is needed for any reference to world consciousness. But as I just said, for me this is not now.
We are bombarded daily with uncontrollable events from far and away: second hand emotions. In 99.9% of the cases, this news does not matter to me personally. Of course the news about the Tsunami in Japan concerns every world citizen. And the news about Syria also does concern everyone. But apart from asking ourselves questions about the futility of existence, there is most often not much we can do with this information.
Of course there is compassion. And there is empathy. I can vividly see before my eyes a fragment of the news of the Tsunami in Japan, where you see people fighting for their lives running up a hill. Then I feel so much empathy. But my empathy is not limitless. (Perhaps compassion can be limitless; when people talk about compassion fatigue they really talk about limited empathy)
When I was in India my family told me how they had survived floods in Ladakh, 2 years ago, and how they managed to save some others, but also how they saw some being carried away by the water. This really concerned me, but I never saw anything about it on TV. Only a phone call, while we were unaware yet, to tell us that they were safe. That phone call was enough. Sensation was/is not necessary.
Our world keeps growing, One day in the far away future we will be able to watch live events like a black hole eating entire planets. Is this going to be relevant? Everyday billions of beings die on earth alone. Everyday something between 200000 and 300000 people die on earth, we cannot empathize with all that suffering. Everyday more than 350000 babies are born. We cannot rejoice for all of them.
Our brain is limited, and hence limited is our empathy and our compassion. We can say things about feeling compassion for all victims of war, but we will never see, hear or feel all victim’s suffering individually. Perhaps great minds can really feel the entire suffering of human kind.
But I cannot.