There seem to be very few reasons not to despair of the human race. If asked why it has decided to tell us all this, and is driving us more than a little made as a result, the news will soberly reply that it has no choice, It simply has a duty to tell us ‘the truth’. Yet this isn’t entirely true. In any nation at any given point there is a welter of conflicting evidence about what is going on in the land. Some people will be drawn to murdering partners who have been unfaithful with a meat cleaver, but the majority will tearfully and angrily muddle along. Some people will riot and vomit in the streets, break shop windows, and run off with looted spirits, but most will be keener to trim back the flowers in the garden or keep things tidy in the kitchen. There is a plethora of headlines that would both be true and yet impossible to run:
We should remember that the news is ultimately only one set of stories about what is happening out there, no more and no less.
Our nation isn’t just a severed hand, a mutilated grandmother, three dead girls in a basement, embarrassment for a minister, trillions of debt, a double suicide at a railway station and a fatal five-car crash by the coast.
It is also the cloud floating right now unattended by the church spire, the gentle thought in the doctor’s mind as he approaches the patient’s bare arm with a needle, the field mice by the hedgerow, the small child tapping the surface of a newly hard-boiled egg while her mother looks on lovingly, the nuclear submarine patrolling the maritime borders with efficiency and courage, the factory producing the first prototypes of a new kind of engine, and the spouse who, despite extraordinary provocation and unkind words, discovers new reserves of patience and forgiveness.
This, too, is reality, The news we are given about the nation is not the nation.
The News: A User’s Manual, Alain de Botton. pp. 43-45