“I don’t think I’m going to make it.” These are the upsetting words an elderly friend uttered to me the other day. Her words were chilling and knowing her as I do, very unexpected. My friend seemed beaten down and I was extremely concerned.
What were behind her words? A frustration that she just can’t shake. The world is really getting to her, just as it is to millions of people. My friend is in her 80’s and she lives alone. As with many people who don’t get out as much as they used to, TV has become her companion and in particular, the news. Concerned, I asked what she meant and she told me that she just can’t understand what is happening to the world…”to people,” she added. “Everything is just so crazy these days and it just seems to get worse. People aren’t like they used to be. I don’t understand them anymore.”
We talked about what she was feeling and what emerged was an unsettling reality for so many people around the world.
The news is getting to me
The news, she said, was not just depressing, but was almost surreal — almost like it wasn’t real, because it has become so absurd. “People are shouting at each other and every story is blown out of proportion. Years ago, they just reported the news exactly as it happened. Now I don’t know if what I’m watching is real, or if the loudmouth on my TV is embellishing it.”
What is happening to people?
My friend is totally unable to explain the Kardashians — “Why would anyone want to keep up with them? Who are they? Why are they rich and famous? What have they contributed to the world?” Admittedly, on this one, I could not help, as I too am unable to explain the Kardashians or any reality “star” for that matter. Her aggravation is warranted. What is happening to people? Why are we all shouting each other down? How is that people with no discernible talent, other than having made a sex tape, can become to absurdly famous and obscenely rich? What have they contributed to the world? The truth is…nothing.
She is also dismayed because she said that even when she does find a quality program to watch, the good vibe is shattered by pharmaceutical commercials — “Why is a woman holding the hand of her own bladder?” she asked. “Aren’t the Doctors supposed to prescribe these medications? Why are they wasting their time and money advertising them to us?” She does have a point. These pharmaceutical commercials often talk about dreaded topics and even if you try to tune them out, that idea and notion, is still lingering in your mind. Is it any wonder people are so frazzled?
We’re not citizens anymore, we’re customers
My friend is also upset because her phone rings incessantly. “Who are these telemarketers that keep calling me day and night? I look at the screen and think it’s a neighbor, but when I answer, its just another scam call.” (I explained “spoofing” and robo-calling to her, which just upset her more, because she can’t understand how these illegal scams are allowed).
Even her mail and email is a source of stress, because all she gets these days are unsolicited offers and hysterical claims that she needs to click the link or a swat team will swarm her house — I jest, but for an elderly person who doesn’t get out as much, these endless scams really are an assault on all of us. “We’re not even seen as citizens anymore. We’re just customers to these companies and scammers. Take what they can get from us, that’s all that matters in this country these days,” she said. Can we deny that? All of us are experiencing this onslaught and it’s as if they have free reign to lie, cheat and steal to make their sales.
I want to point out that this friend is not a stereotypical “old person.” She is smart, active, engaged and sharp as a tack — there’s no moss growing under her feet. For her to be this upset was very telling, because she’s not “confused” or withering away. She’s upset because she has lived and witnessed and experienced war and all manner of events. Yet, something is different these days and she can’t quite put her finger on it.
“Things aren’t always easy, but you just have to keep going and don’t let the small stuff bog you down.” – Stella Maeve
Can any of us put our finger on it?
What my friend is feeling is real and she is far from alone in her anger/frustration. Quite frankly, I don’t think there are many who would, or even could deny that our world, particularly in the U.S., has become a barren landscape of commercialism. We are inundated with cold, stark commerce at every turn. Everything and everyone, it seems, is for sale and the “take whatever you can” mentality is flourishing. We have become a commercial venture and the notion of to get rich no matter who you hurt is becoming the norm. Have a product to sell? Sell it to anyone you can, even if that means lying, cheating and stealing. Citizens? She’s right, because we’re not citizens — we’re customers. Companies are free to invade our privacy, track us, listen to us, call us, email us…it’s clear that our needs are unimportant and that those of the faceless corporate beast are paramount.
As for the news, as my friend said, it’s surreal. It may seem “normal” to younger people who haven’t known anything different, but let’s be honest and admit that the news has become very unsettling. Moreover, people’s reactions to the “news” has created a hate-filled, toxic environment. Worse, much of the “news” is hyped up and turned into more than it really is, because these 24 x 7 news networks have to fill the airwaves with something, don’t they? Boring just doesn’t keep viewers and it doesn’t get clicks and since they rely on advertising, you better believe salacious, no matter how false, is their primary objective.
Is she right though?
What is happening to the world? Have people gone mad? These are legitimate questions, because more and more people are asking them, so that means yes, something is happening here. And that means that my friend is astute and clearly aware that things have gone a bit haywire.
I suggested that my friend watch less TV news and instead, read the paper or read it online. I urged her to just throw away her junk mail, delete her scam emails and just ignore the scam telemarketing calls. “Just don’t answer them or, just hang up,” I suggested. “I’ll try” she said, but the damage may be done.”
My friend said she fears for the world and in particular, the youngest generation. Now here’s the other kicker — this friend is one of the most optimistic people I know. She is normally cheery, loves people, cares for animals and always tries to see the brighter side in life. It is because that is how I’ve always known her to be that made me so concerned.
After leaving her house, I went home and decided that I would start asking around and conduct my own, non-scientific poll. I asked many friends and acquaintances if they too felt the world seemed to be going mad. Do you know, that out of about 22 people I asked, 14 emphatically said “yes!” and 2 were more lukewarm about it, saying that things do seem “out of whack,” and they did say they no longer watch the news. That is 16 out of 22 people, so roughly 73% of those I asked.
So it’s all gone bad, has it?
The answer is of course, no. But, as any truly positive person will tell you, pretending that everything is normal in the world would be a mistake. We have much to fix and the only way broken things get repaired is if we face up to the problem, drag it into the light and make it better.
What can we do?
I’m happy to say that my friend is feeling much better. She no longer turns on the news first thing in the morning and instead, is once again getting the newspaper delivered. This, she said, lets her read the news without all the mania. She has also started to just delete the emails she doesn’t recognize, so no more opening up the invasive spam. She is still getting scam telemarketing calls, but has put herself on the “do not call” list — now, she lets it ring if she doesn’t know the caller and then checks her voicemail…if its a friend, family member or a truly legitimate call, they leave a message. But perhaps best of all, she reminded herself that she is one tough cookie. She is a positive person and she re-committed herself to being optimistic and not letting the rotten apples spoil the bunch.
So above all, what each of us can do is make a choice — a choice to nullify the invasive negativity. Cut it off. Ignore it. Challenge and confront it. Quite simply, don’t let it into your life and if some does creep in, never, ever let it get you down.
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe