Opinion: Students need to be more aware of the world


Joshua Sussman, Staff Columnist

I recently had to perform a project for one of my classes. It’s called a Vox Populi assignment, wherein an individual has to go out onto the street and interview random people about a particular topic. The topic that I chose was the Hong Kong protests. 

You know the Hong Kong protests, those pro-Democrat protests that were originally sparked by that extradition bill and have since morphed into a call for greater democratic freedoms? The protests that have garnered international attention, and have been going on for several months now? Those Hong Kong protests?

I ask, because very few people I interviewed over the course of an hour and a half knew what I was talking about. Some people went so far as to not know what Hong Kong was. They thought it was the capital of Japan. 

I’m not making that up. Two UA students sincerely said that, on a college campus, to my face. Yeah.

Young people need to be more aware of the news and the world. 

The world is a frightening and bewildering place. It’s filled with terrible and terrifying things like mass murderers, violent explosions, political corruption, death by electrocution and that one spider in the amazon that is so big that it kills and eats chickens (look it up). The news often seizes on these terrible things and blathers on about them nonstop, for the simple reason that many people focus more on the negative than the positive. This is the reason behind the classic news phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The news caters to what a lot of people want to hear rather than catering to unbiased journalism, and what those people want to hear is that the world is screwed up and that they should be angry, even if they would never admit to it as such.

If you want evidence of this, just look at how CNN devoted approximately four hundred and twenty-seven thousand percent of its time to calling Donald Trump the worst thing since the Black Plague. You could also look at how Fox News harped on Obama so much you’d swear they genuinely thought he was the Anti-Christ. They made inordinate sums of money from doing this, as the same people watch over and over so they can see what maniacal plot their hated political foes are up to now. This drive, this need to be angry, to be upset, to see things and hear things that make their blood boil, is a drive that the news networks are more than willing to profit off of. And the networks aren’t just willing to profit off of it, they are willing to wring every single dollar and cent out of the pockets of their viewers and advertisers, no matter the impact on journalistic integrity. If basic economics has taught us anything, it is that if there is a want, and you can supply that want, then doing so is nothing more than good business.

This constant negative focus leads many young people to shun the news entirely. Most of the people I interviewed said they did not watch the news because it constantly depressed them. They don’t want to hear about terrible things all the time, so they simply choose not to hear.

This is a mistake.

You should not keep yourself from being informed simply because what you hear saddens or angers you. The world is not a bubble filled with soft, kind things and no regrets. It has edges and wounds and reasons to doubt, rage, fear and cry. It has troubles and you must be aware of those troubles. They exist regardless, and awareness can lead to action, and thus solutions.

By the same token, though, those soft things exist as well. The world is not all edge, and those horrors are balanced by sunny days, simple joys and other wonderful things. If the news depresses you, remember the good in the world on your own and take comfort in the things that make you happy. Do not shut it out. Acknowledge that those things, those terrible things, are but one part of life, and then go out and seek that other part, the part that makes us laugh, love and truly feel alive.

We must be aware of the world around us. We must keep a clear-headed and realistic view of the world, with all of its good and all of its bad. We must not lock ourselves inside safe spaces and must not succumb to fear-mongering. We must be informed, and we must be aware. Informed of it all, and aware of it all, because the truth is out there. The real world is out there, regardless of our delusions, no matter the kind.