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Carrying the weight of the daily news

  • 29 March 2022
A house bursts into flames as it’s submerged in floodwaters. A doctor tells a cameraman filming a dying Ukrainian child to send the footage to Putin. A newspaper delves into the murder of a young woman. An Australian cricketing legend drops dead overnight. It’s like a fever dream: a pandemic bleeds into the edges of a global war.

I lie in a bed of bubbles, my tired muscles are pummelled by water in the clean, tiled day spa. A friend and I have birthdays in the same week and are treating ourselves, because that’s what you do when you’re a middle-class Aussie.  

But there’s cognitive dissonance to the endless newsreel of tragedy and disaster in my head and the serene spa room. I try to lie still and be present, the rumble of bubbles filling my ears but I’m on edge, like an ant under a magnifying glass. What’s going up in flames next? How can you not carry the weight of the world when the world is at our fingertips?

‘There should be a word for the feeling of “carrying on life in a luxuriantly safe country” while the rest of the world is happening,’ Helen Rumbelow wrote in the Sunday Times. What is that word? What do you do with the jumble of emotions which surface every time you check the endless banner of disaster reeling across your screen? 

‘We take in tragic news stories almost every day, but we rarely recognise them as belonging to a coherent narrative cycle with a distinct moral to impart,’ Alain de Botton wrote in The News, A User’s Manual. Botton’s argument is that we don’t really know how to process the news. Information, historically, was difficult to access so our inner lives were kept ‘in check’. ‘And now the hum and rush of the news (has) seeped into our deepest selves.’

I flip between apathy and helplessness, sometimes within the space of a few minutes. A token donation flicked to Oxfam feels trivial in the face of human suffering, like trying to put out a fire with a humidifier. My life plods along with a predictable rhythm: kids, bills, work, study, sleep, repeat. And yet, the news follows me into the darkest corners of my sleep. Pictures of children who, the previous day, were playing are now running for their lives. 

'The news presents information, and it has no moral duty to tell us