Can I be serious for a moment?
I promise that this will be one of the only non-funny posts I ever make. But I do want to make it, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this site since I knew I’d be one of Chuck Westbrook’s featured blogs. I moved things around, added a blogroll, did some optimization, added some plug-ins to the blog software, stopped being Robert Goulet, etc. And as I was doing all of that, it hit me that I’ve never really addressed, in depth, my choice for the name of this site. After all, I could have called it anything.
I could have called it “Johnny Truant’s House of Idiocy.”
I could have called it “Funny Zone” or something similarly lame.
But no. I named it “The Economy Isn’t Happening.”
Not a lot of people ask about that. In fact, to date, only one person has asked about it. But have you wondered? If I just wanted to be funny, why use that cryptic phrase instead of something more clear?
Here’s the answer
I’ve been writing funny for years, and the archives of this site go back so far in time because I repurposed and revitalized essays from an old e-newsletter I used to send out. This site, in blog form, has only been around for a few months. It was started when the first bad news started to come out about the economy. And as I wrote more, the economy got worse. Banks closed. Major corporations closed. The market took a big dive. Then another. Then another.
I’m not going to lie; it scared the hell out of me. It still does.
But here’s the thing: It only scares me if I look at it. If I think about it. If I surf over to CNN to fill my head with some negativity. Because that’s what newsmedia does: It takes all of life and filters out all of the bad. Then it serves it up to you — with lots of flash and sensationalism and pizzaz — for your enjoyment.
I gave this site the name I did because I wanted to create a place where the war wasn’t happening. Where murders weren’t happening. Where the economy — that hideous, terrifying economy — wasn’t even happening. It doesn’t exist here. I thought there might be a lot of people who felt the same way I did — who, now more than ever, NEEDED to laugh and needed to forget for a while — and so far I’ve been right.
Life is to be enjoyed. We’re here to have fun, to smile, to make friends, to love, and to laugh. We’re not put on this planet to worry. To fret every detail. To be unable to sleep because of how hideous the world can appear to be. And note: that’s appear to be. Because no matter how things actually are, they’re not going to look good if you watch the news.
And that’s why I simply won’t watch the news.
I hate the news. I despise the news. I haven’t watched a news program other than election coverage in years. If my wife turns the news on, I leave the room and will not come back until it’s over. I make my son leave the room with me. We don’t get a newspaper. My roommates in college split a newspaper subscription and I didn’t chip in because I wouldn’t touch the damn thing. I try my best to avoid online news, even though online news has a way of finding you wherever you go on the Net. Every once in a while, I decide I want to check on the stock market at Yahoo Finance. And every single time, I leave feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut.
Because the bad news just won’t. Stop. Coming.
But the thing is, that “the world is falling apart” picture that you see on the news is not reality. That’s not reality at all. Is the world dark and dim? Is the sky falling? You’d think so on some days, but it’s not the truth.
The news is not reality.
Watch the news some day and write down everything they report. Other than weather, traffic, and sports, 90% of what’s reported is going to be negative. Now break it down and ask yourself if you’re being told the truth — the whole truth, as an accurate representation of reality. When you see the bad, weigh your emotional response and ask if it’s actually in proportion if you truly look at the facts in their entirety.
They tell you: Three people were murdered.
But they don’t remind you: In a city of 500,000, 499,997 people were NOT murdered.
They tell you: A house burned down, leaving a family homeless.
But they don’t remind you: 157,904 houses in the city did not burn down, and those families still have a home.
They tell you: The Dow slipped 400 points and massive layoffs are expected.
But they don’t remind you: The market is still strong and will recover. Most people have not and will not lose their jobs. The poorest people in western first-world nations like the US and Britain have standards of life better than all but the richest in other areas of the world. The vast, vast majority of even jobless people will have a roof over their heads nightly, and pretty much everyone will have food. Even the homeless don’t starve here.
It’s human nature to notice what is wrong, what could be dangerous. It’s part of what keeps us alive. But the news in all its forms exaggerates the negative, magnifies it, shows it to you over and over and over until you come to feel deep down that there is nothing else. It makes it worse, taking all of the objectively true things in the world and presenting mostly the ones that scare us, that make us worry.
It’s that “fear sells” axiom. Nobody buys a newspaper that proclaims, “PERFECT WEATHER!” but they can sell out the issue warning of a dangerous storm.
I’d like to issue you all a challenge: Try a news blackout for a week. Stop watching the news. Don’t read a newspaper. Unsubscribe to CNN bulletins by email. Unfollow news sources on Twitter. Don’t visit CNN, MSN, or any other news website. Don’t make Yahoo your homepage either, because there are news bulletins there. Change your homepage to another site. Google is okay. Or anywhere else that makes you feel neutral or, ideally, good.
Pretend that the economy isn’t happening. Pretend that war isn’t happening. Pretend that murders and rapes and joblessness and child abuse and famine aren’t happening. Just shut it out for a week. If you must have it back at the end of the week, go for it. But for a week, shut out the negative blast and see if you can start noticing good deeds, funny things, and beauty.
Question: Isn’t this apathy?
It would be, if we were shutting out reality. But we’re not shutting out reality; we’re shutting out the news. We’re turning off the RSS feed of “bad stuff” we subscribed to years ago. We’re consciously choosing to view life as it comes, as both positive and negative. You will see when something bad happens. But you will see the many good things that happen at around the same time, too.
There are soldiers at war. We’re not ignoring them. There are people all over in bad situations. We’re not neglecting them. Unless you move into a Unabomber shack, you’re going to hear about the world’s problems even if you are on a news fast, so don’t worry that you’ll be totally out of the loop. Believe me, I’ve been trying for YEARS to block it all out, and it’s not possible. I still know way more than I’d like to.
The difference is that now, you won’t be bombarding yourself with it. You won’t keep looking at it. And looking at it. And looking at it. You won’t be unable to appreciate something cute your kid is doing because you’re staring at war carnage on TV, taking it all in, scared and sick to your stomach.
Point: But ignoring it makes me irresponsible! It’s my duty to be informed.
The news doesn’t make you informed. It makes you paranoid. You think the news is “what’s going on in the world,” but that’s not the truth. The news isn’t what’s going on. It’s what’s going WRONG.
Is it your duty to be constantly worried, constantly fearful? Is it your duty to examine everything bad in minute detail? It it your duty to not smile, not laugh? Do you think you’re being disrespectful and inconsiderate to enjoy yourself when someone, somewhere, is suffering?
Do you think that by suffering as well, you’re helping them?
Do you think that by smiling, looking at the good, and laughing, you’re harming them?
Somewhere, outside of your sphere of influence, a man beat his wife today. If you obsess about it and feel bad, does your agony help her? Does it put him in jail?
Or are you just making the world a bit worse by doing nothing other than making one more person — yourself — feel bad?
Point: But by being informed, I’ll be motivated to act and do good things. And by sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the world, I’m tacitly allowing bad things to continue.
I’m not saying that if you see a mugging, you should ignore it and walk away. That would be irresponsible. You help where you can, where you’re able to. You work within your sphere of influence to make the world a better place. You assist, you give advice, you donate to charity.
What you don’t do is feel as if you have to solve every problem in the world by yourself. Think about it. That’s what news paranoia is all about. It’s about showing you things that you cannot affect and making you feel bad about them.
I absolutely love the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
YOU CANNOT CHANGE all of the woes of the world. So why are you making yourself sick over them?
In every moment, we have the choice of looking at the bad in the world or looking at the good. We can choose to cry at what’s wrong or laugh at what’s funny. Does the worry and depression that comes from people “informing themselves” help the world improve? Or, conversely, do we have a better shot at improving our lot when we’re upbeat and happy?
I’D LIKE TO START A MOVEMENT HERE.
I promise not to make this site all heavy. Honest. Like I said at the outset, there will be almost no serious posts like this one. I will stick to talking about farting and dumbness. But I would like you all to know that there is a method to my madness. I want you all to laugh — to laugh a lot. But not “just because.” We laugh because it is the natural state of a person to laugh and to have fun. This site is here as a foil against all of the stuff out there that tries daily to make you feel like hell. And there is a lot of that out there.
If you agree with me, add your comments on this post. Take my 1-week news blackout challenge, and then see how you feel and ask yourself if you want to extend it indefinitely. Then pass this link around (http://www.theeconomyisnthappening.com/blog/bulletins-and-site-news/answer-economy-happening/) and encourage your friends to try it out.
I want to make this world laugh more. I want to make this world fear less. Behind the old Robert Goulet avatar and the dumb nerd humor, I actually feel like I have a purpose on this planet. I’d like to make it a little brighter, a little less focused on negativity.
Spread the word. Email this link (http://www.theeconomyisnthappening.com/blog/bulletins-and-site-news/answer-economy-happening/) to people you know; post it to your blogs and encourage your readers to pass it on; Tweet it on Twitter; share it on Facebook. Please Digg and Stumble this post, and ask others to do the same. Let’s see how many people we can reach. How many people we can get to pull their heads out of the news cyclone. Let’s make it a movement:
I’ll change the “my philosophy” page to become the center of this movement if it looks like people are interested and on board. I’ll make some badges for websites, stuff like that. It will be the only serious place on the site. I’ll stick everything into that section. And in the rest of the site, I’ll stick to LOLruses and barf jokes as usual.
Does anyone feel the way I do? Or am I crazy?
Maybe it’s both.