10 Stories You Need To Know More About (Or Do You?)

In a long, tired tradition of trying to bring important, underreported stories to the forefront, the UN’s put together a web page of “10 Stories the world needs to know more about.” Needless to say, you should probably take a least a couple minutes to skim over the details of various catastrophes and humanitarian crises that haven’t so much as grazed the collective western consciousness. So you can “be informed.” Each story has its own page, with a brief summary of whatever conflict, etc., has made its way into the UN’s list.

But what does it really mean to be informed?

The sad fact is that even these (the UN stories) probably aren’t the nonreported (or underreported) stories that most affect you the reader; the sad fact being that you probably don’t need to look to Africa or Asia to hear about a vast, unacknowledged tragedy-in-progress. You probably don’t need to venture very far geographically—physically or mentally—to find a subset of people that’s suffering in one way or another.

It strikes me that maybe delocalization of news is itself a problem, that superficial (or even mildly analytic) knowledge of Important news is not by default a good thing.

Hear me out.

The news that circulates—via TV, radio, and the internet—is composed of encapsulated bits of things that are kind of universally interesting (human interest, or human catastrophe, or human innovation), but divorced from Place. Sure, the place is included in the first sentence of the story: e.g., “WHITEHORSE (AP) – meteor crashed” and so forth, but what does that mean? People—some people anyway—like to be informed of what’s going on around the world. So they glean stories from various newspapers, web sites, shows on the moving-picture-box, etc.; what they get isn’t a picture of news that is relevant to them, though. Do they (you) pay extra-close attention to stories that pique your interest? Yes. Are some of the stories that pique your interest ones that are personally relevant? Sure. But for the most part, do most of the news bits you glean really meang anything to you personally?

And if they don’t, (and if you don’t realistically have any chance of impacting their resolution—since, after all, the idea that an individual can ‘make a difference’, really and truly, is in some ways a manufactured lie), why is it important to Be Informed? So you can sleep with the knowledge that you are socially conscious? That, unlike Lonny J. Nobody, you know about the child soldiers in Uganda?

Unfortunately, I’ve dug myself into a rhetorical hole, because I have absolutely no idea of how to even begin answering these questions. I can think of about 53 other questions, but that’s not going to help me right now. In fact I do believe it’s important to know what’s going on around the globe, to one extent or another, regardless of your personal abililty to alleviate that suffering. It’s possible to be informed in a technical sense—to be able to rattle off thirty paraphrased accounts of what’s going on in Japan and Niger and Taiwan and Canada and Ecuador—without being locally informed or really being able to translate that massive body of knowledge into any kind of socially useful action.

(For the record, I fully intend to continue to post stories that do not directly pertain to my locality, that really serve no purpose other than to entertain, and that probably mean nothing to you [or me]. But it’s something to think about, nonetheless. [Off the top of my head, I have a good story about a kangaroo saving the life of its owner that I’m probably going to post sooner or later.] Fortunately, not having answers doesn’t mean you can’t ask the questions.)