8 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Follow the News

When I tell people that I usually neither read nor watch the news, I’m often met with surprise. Admittedly, as a writer I have to stay on top of current events but I’ve learnt to do that without getting too immersed in the media. It was a transition starting from completely withdrawing from following mainstream media to learning to take information in without becoming too affected by it. I'm not living in a bubble. I am just selective about what I want to focus my energy on. Here are eight reasons why I feel it is not necessary to follow the news.

1) The media is filled with negativity. You'll hear more about rape, violent crimes, terrorism, natural disasters and so forth than you will about anything good or reasons to motivate you to keep going. The latter is saved for short skits at the end of the news hour, just before the weather. This can give the viewer a very obscure view of the world. It encourages fear rather than exploration.

2) Mainstream news is biased and pre-edited. Most news agencies are owned by a few major corporations. When a small group at the top owns the news, can it really be represented in a free, fair and unbiased manner?

3) Headlines are enough. I'll often read the headlines posted on the side of the road whilst driving or pick up the newspaper when visiting someone. If a headline really catches my attention, I'll look deeper into it.

4) If it's important, you’ll find out. When something creates a lot of hype, be it good or bad, people will talk. You'll hear about it. If it is "Breaking News" someone will mention it to you.
I don't need to follow the news because the people around me will always tell me. I have my own personal news reporters. Isn't that special? If I need specific information, I can do a bit of research or read niche publications.

5) Why follow the news, when you can make the news. I like that old adage. "Some people will watch the news, whilst other people will make the news." I'd rather make the news, even if it is just my news and not too many people find out about it. I'd rather live my life than follow the lives of others.

6) It sucks you in. Gossip is addictive. It is like a story. You hear the beginning and you want to follow it until the end. However, following a celebrity or politician vivaciously may mean that you'll do so your whole life. Likewise, T.V. is also addictive and much of our news comes from that tube. Wanting to fit in is also a sort of addiction. Small talk is often about politics, crime and the weather.

7) I like not knowing what the weather will be like tomorrow. I like being surprised. It sometimes leads to spontaneity, and many of life's great moments arise from that. So, I don't mind being the only person carrying an umbrella on a day the weatherman pronounced as "sunny and with clear skies". So what? I didn't know. I like my umbrella. It's a nice accessory to my walk and when I'm tired I can lean on it. Also, it can come in handy as a good weapon to defend myself if I am attacked. On the other hand, if it rains and I'm caught without it, I can follow in the steps of Gene Kelly and just start singing in the rain. If there is a storm ahead, somebody will warn me.

8) The Internet is enough. I read most news on the Internet. People will post relevant news on their Facebook profiles and re-tweet it on Twitter. The digital grapevine is effective in spreading information.  Independent newscasters and blogs will give rougher and more opinionated versions but you get a real feel for the story that way.

It is nearly impossible to completely isolate yourself from the world. Nevertheless, it is needless to worry and have negative commentary and press affect you daily. Time and energy are our most precious commodities. It would be wiser to spend them on the things that we love and have a positive impact on us.


Maja Dezulovic

Marijuana Could Change the World

Jack Herer, the author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, said that marijuana can change the world. In light of recent events, it appears that the world is changing after all. In the documentary about him entitled Emperor of Hemp, footage of Herer appears in which he discusses ways in which cannabis can be used in various industries and also under methods more sustainable than what is implemented today. He proclaimed that the cannabis plant can save the world.

In his book, Herer wrote: “...[T]here is only one known annually renewable natural resource that is capable of providing the overall majority of the world's paper and textiles; meet all of the world's transportation, industrial and home energy needs, while simultaneously reducing pollution, rebuilding the soil, and cleaning the atmosphere all at the same time... and that substance is -- the same one that did it all before -- Cannabis Hemp... Marijuana!”

Hemp has many uses but its medical properties have been the ones highlighted in the recent media and legislation amendments. Marijuana has been proven to aid pain sufferers and provide relief to cancer patients. In light of this, the use of medical marijuana is now legal in Canada, the Czech Republic and over 20 states of the USA. Other countries such as the Netherlands, Australia and India have provided leeway regarding marijuana laws. However, to date, only one country has put legislation in place both legalizing and regulating the possession, sale, transport and cultivation of marijuana. That country is Uruguay.

Herer’s claims have been criticised but if his research and analyses are correct, Uruguay has taken the first step in changing our global path. If the decision turns out to be a success, it may alter the stance of international politicians, environmentalists, and sociologists with regard to cannabis use, sale and cultivation leading to more breakthroughs.

The marijuana revolution is underway and our views on cannabis are undergoing a transformation. Perhaps it is possible that we can become a global nation of hippies, running our world on renewable energies, and governed by sustainable and ethical business practices. A wild-eyed and grinning stoner’s dream may be making its way into reality.

Maja Dezulovic

Eskom's Effort to Enlighten Us

Last week Eskom released their load shedding schedule. There was an outcry from people who envisaged the fiasco of 2008 happening all over again. Businesses began preparing for downtime and hospitals were warned to prioritise their back-up systems. There is no need for the ordinary citizen to panic, however. We need to see this as Eskom’s humble effort to teach us a few things. Our nation’s power supplier wants to inspire some thinking and use of the imagination. They want to bring us together and have us embrace our culture. Perhaps their method may be forceful but it is clever to enlighten us by putting us in the darkness. Let us look at the ways in which life will change and we can benefit from this.

It is an ideal time for one of the favourite past times of many South Africans – braais. Men can gracefully play around with tongs whilst the women prepare freshly picked salads. Wives will find relief in no longer having to cook but will have to acquire the skill of planting and harvesting crops such as lettuce, tomato and rocket. Since the fridges will be experiencing downtime, all salads will have to be fresh from the yard. Obviously Eskom is a supporter of organic fresh produce.

Others can share their cultural bond around potjie pots and camp fires. The kids can sit around the flames telling ghost stories, or even the more chilling tales of armed robberies, break ins and murders whilst all the alarms and electric fences are off. On the subject of children, there should be a peak in little ones. Stargazed lovers will unwaveringly surrender themselves to the romantic atmosphere and do what many adults do when the lights go off. This is good news for the baby products industry. In gratitude, all Eskom executives will receive a baby pram as part of their annual bonuses in the future.

The lazier bunch of us will opt for fast foods. Pizza places should look particularly enticing around this time of year – candlelit tables surrounding the blazing pizza oven. This is definitely a good opportunity for fast-food chains and restaurants owning reliable generators. We also need not fear an obesity epidemic. Without distractions which promote lethargy such as the internet and television, we will be active and burn the calories we consume. We may even become healthier.

Shopping may take a little longer than it used to. The cash register will be replaced with old receipt books but we should give thanks for this too. All cashiers will finally learn what they missed out in school and leave these testing times with a new, very valuable skill – the ability to count. This stimulation of left-brained activity may lead to higher ambitions for the ordinary cashier. After learning to count (or use a calculator), they may choose to pursue careers in science and mathematics. An increase in educated citizens will go a long way.

The obvious earners will be alternative energy suppliers who will see a rise in demand. We will learn a thing or two about electricity generation and remember how easy it was when it was just given to us for a fee. We will learn to think and be more creative about life. Moreover, those living in gated communities and spotless suburban areas will receive a reality check and be reminded that they are in Africa after all.

With the provision of so many lessons and benefits to us, Eskom should become a division of the education department. In the meantime, we can put somebody else in charge of our power supply. We don’t want to overload Eskom with too much responsibility now that we have discovered the company's true strengths and value to us.

Maja Dezulovic

God is in the Rain

It has been raining heavily lately. Some places in Johannesburg are flooding. I remembered these words. “God is in the rain.”

If you have watched the 2005 film V for Vendetta, you’ll recognise the reference. If not, let me elaborate. The film is set in a dystopian future. One of the stories told in the movie is of a beautiful actress named Valerie. She begins her narrated autobiography by describing how her grandmother always told her that God is in the rain when she was growing up. Valerie realised in high school that she was homosexual. When she openly exposed her sexuality to her family and community, she was rejected and outcast for it. She meets “the love of her life” as a young adult but the affair is short-lived as both her and her partner are later arrested by government officials because they are lesbians. Valerie is taken to a concentration camp and tortured to death. The significance of the words is repeated again by the main character Evie (played by Natalie Portman), when she realises the meaning of the words. God is in the rain is an idiom denoting that good can be found in everything. So even if you find yourself caught in the rain, there is a good reason for it.

This was on my mind because of the recent homophobic acts we have seen occurring around the world, particularly those in Nigeria, Uganda and Croatia. Religious leaders have referred to homosexuality with abomination and countries are enforcing laws prohibiting same-sex unions. Have we fallen into a mental time warp into the Dark Ages, perhaps? If you are a Christian, or a member of any religious order that worships God, you would have been taught that all people are children of God. Believing people to be sinners or heathens gives you no right to judge or stone them. There will be some who will refer to Holy Scriptures and justify their condemnation of others. However, as Christians, were we not taught that all humans are innate sinners and that Jesus died on the cross for all our sins? If Jesus died for our sins then why must we punish ourselves or others for them now? There are many angles to explore this religiously. I refer to Christianity because it relates to my background. Whichever religion we may belong to, hopefully reason and a love for all humankind wins this one. We all have an equal right to life. The era we live in is defined by freedom of choice. We do not have to agree with each other’s choices but it is our duty to respect each other. Perhaps that is the “silver lining” in this situation – another lesson about our common humanity and conduct towards each other. The sad part is that we will continue to have to deal with injustice until the message sinks in globally.

We can analyse the words of the saying in another manner. More than half of our bodies are made up of the H20 compound. Maybe this is a symbol of something more profound. Essentially we are all the same. Our differences lie merely in our choices. God is in the rain, therefore God is in the water, hence also in all of us. We choose to contaminate that water or purify it. Some decisions, such as committing certain crimes, are punishable by law and rightly so. We nevertheless cannot punish individuals for who they are and who they choose to love. People should be allowed to express their freedom – religiously, politically and sexually.

Maja Dezulovic

South Africa’s Media Frenzy

I was reading articles on News24 the other night when suddenly the app on my phone bombed out. I wanted to continue reading the article I was busy with so I reopened the app. To my surprise, there were two new tabs on the newly updated website – one for the elections and the other for the Oscar Pistorius case. It is a crazy time in South African media.

The popular reports reflect our main interests – politics and a murder case involving a celebrity. I wonder if the two will begin to overlap at some stage. Perhaps the DA will promise to reform the justice system if Oscar is acquitted. Taking advantage of the intense media following, maybe Oscar himself will join a political party and create waves in the tabloids around election time. On the other hand, he may be found guilty and then later appeal for medical parole due to illness. Some would consider the absence of two limbs as a serious condition, thus feeling morally obliged to release Oscar so that he can recuperate at home and perhaps, grow more limbs.

The world’s eyes will be on us for the next couple of months. If history is anything to go by, we will continue to be called a “failed country” and the crime, corruption, farm murders and all the other reasons that have apparently forced about 800,000 white South Africans out of here over the past two decades will be highlighted. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. Our media feeds us what we want to hear, see and read. Unfortunately we have become a nation of complainers, but on the lighter side of things and in America, where the grass is obviously a much brighter shade of green than it is here, the Oscars took place. Ellen DeGeneres did a great job entertaining her audience and took an awesome selfie with an all star cast. It is strange however, that nobody covered the story of her backstage conversation with Angelina Jolie in which it was decided that no philanthropic efforts will be continued in Uganda.

Yes, this is another South African complaining. I just wish we could focus a bit more on the beauty of our country and all the things we can be thankful for. Maybe if we start seeing them, the world will too.

Maja Dezulovic