by Ida Kohlmeyer
Someone talking on radio news today mentioned something about "consumer spending." I'm really tired of being labelled a consumer, like that's what I do in life, consume. I buy a cd, I'm consuming it. I buy gas, I'm consuming it. I pay electric bill, I'm consuming it. I read a book, I'm consuming it. Eating it. Or I am a fire burning it. But, it sounds good and it covers everybody, politically correct neutral. It's struck me odd for years to be regarded a consumer. A long time ago it was citizen. Now, it's consumer and sometimes taxpayer. A government employee gets caught with porn in his computer at work and he's accused of thinking dirty at taxpayer expense. Punish him! We could be called voters, but that only applies to about half the people.
Then, there is the news in relation to what we call reality. I listen to the news for years and a city like New York becomes a hell-hole to stay as far away from as possible. Go to New York and it is entirely different. You don't see people getting killed everywhere you turn. Gang violence is in the black parts of the city, and sensible white people stay out. For one thing, sensible white people know they're not welcome. Nobody has ever mugged me or picked my pocket in New York. I've had several attempts at pocket picking in London. I was in the crowd seeing Hirohito ride in a fancy carriage with the Queen. I felt hands feeling me up the whole time. Somebody passing through the crowd slowly. I knew better than to carry money and passport in pants pockets. I wore a jacket with interior pockets and stood with my arms folded. It felt like I was in a Dickens novel.
Every time I go to a city, I'm impressed by how not like the news it is. Nobody sticks a gun in the side window of my car, tells me to get out and takes the car. If it happens, and surely it does, it doesn't happen to everybody all the time. I tend to listen to the news quite a lot, albeit with about half attention, like 5 minutes after 5 minutes of news I don't remember any of it unless reminded. I've heard the headline news half a dozen times today and if you'd ask me what's happening on the news I couldn't give an accurate answer. A Kingston Trio song from the late 50s comes to mind, They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran. That was half a century ago. Has it changed? Yes. There's more of it. I fill my head with Syrian protesters getting killed by government troops. I tell myself not to listen. Then I wonder about the people in the protest groups getting shot at. I wonder about the troops shooting them. I feel like they deserve at least attention. Then I laugh at myself, but not whole-heartedly.
It's funny how people mass together for security, then the enemy comes from within--crime from the people shut out of society, shut out from even making a decent living in a culture of white people jealously guarding the purity of their precious race. This is what I see the republicans reacting against, the recent fact that people of color in America now are half the population. Republican is now the racist party that the Democrat used to be. Of course they deny it, like the Democrats denied it then. They're Americans. Deny is what we do. But you look around and it's everywhere all over the globe. It appears to me that everything that is coming due around the world at the same time is the stuff swept under the metaphorical rug. Evidently the rug has been raised and all the piles of issues settled by denial are exposed.
The news makes me want to stay home and spend the least amount of money possible. It makes me want to stay out of everybody else's way, because we're in a dangerous time in a dangerous world. Not in Sparta. There is plenty of testosterone posturing in Sparta, but it's harmless as the sound of a mouse skittering across a linoleum floor. I have to remind myself that much of what's on the news is posturing for the sake of getting on the news. Unfortunately, The News is the only "voice" that is heard. Some bunch of people have an agenda and want the world to see their point of view, they do something to get on the news. It has to be horrendous, because that's all the news sees. The only good news I've heard in the last week is Rupert Murdoch sits on the hot seat in court for excesses against the interest of humanity.
Yet, I can see it quite another way. Because I pay attention to the news, avoiding corporate news as much as I can, I find I have an understanding of that mental sphere we share collectively. Of course, my understanding is my own, just like everyone else's is their own. A man in the coffee shop who talks down about liberals and wants to nuke the entire Arab world hears the same news I hear. He gets his from different sources. He prefers Fox news, I prefer NPR. They both tell the same stories, more or less. One with rant, the other with emphasis. The continuum of the news feeds into and modifies our mental "world view" from one hearing to the next. I have in my head these understandings according to the mental sphere only. The mental construct each of us has in our heads regarding the world of the news is our own. It's like paying attention to the weather used to be. The news changes like the weather, like the flame in a fireplace. I've an idea that's what makes it so interesting.