How Much for Your Soul?


by Roxanne Tellier

On the day after 4 million students from all around the world marched to protest their respective governments’ lack of decisive action on climate change, Bob Lefsetz noted that the photos and the chatter had already been pushed off the pages of both terrestrial and online press sites. 

Just a few of those crazy 4 million kids who marched for climate change

Today I noticed several cynics on social media, who found the very idea of kids marching for climate change laughable. Rather than admire the strength and courage shown by Greta Thunberg and her supporters, they wallowed in the belief that there is no point in fighting those in power.

It’s like all the marches, the sit ins and bed ins and hunger strikes of the sixties never even happened. As though the broken heads and bodies of civil rights activists were a myth. As if the peaceful protests of leaders like Ghandi just didn’t matter. 

Listen. If protests didn’t work, governments wouldn’t be always trying to stop people from protesting.

When the people finally stand up and find their voices, the people can change the world. We boomers did; we stopped a war. Maybe these kids can save the planet. Maybe we can help them.

If we don’t then we’ve proved that this is how the world works now. We gear up towards an event, take our selfies, and then we’re on to the next crisis. Even if we really, really care about that event – a political debate, our children marching to try and save the planet – there’s always another spike, another shock, another jolt, coming at us before we’ve caught our breath from the last. Which means we never actually get anything done.

It’s exhausting. And it’s getting us nowhere.

All week long I’ve been trying to put my finger on the overwhelming atmosphere of our political environment. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing. It’s like we’ve had our adrenal glands hooked up to a milking machine. Our supply of fight or flight hormones are running so low now that many people would barely blink at a sharknado.   

While we can certainly point to the Mango Mussolini as the main culprit who has conditioned us to expect multiple adrenaline jolts per day, the media also bears a lot of responsibility for having married our emotions to this stressful world of social media and nonstop ‘breaking news!’

When I was growing up, the news occupied a sacred place in society. At fairly regular intervals, the citizenry would be asked to pause in what they were doing, and pay attention to the news of their country, and the world. Some read newspapers, some watched their televised updates at 6pm and before bed, but overall, most people had at least a vague sense of how governments ran. Sometimes we were told that things were good, and it was time to celebrate. Other times, we’d be informed of battles and wars that needed our attention, and sometimes, that required the service and sacrifice of our fittest young people. But overall … news was for grown ups, and it was important.

However, it was also something from which you could take a vacation, and return to, without missing much.

Those were the days when channels still ‘signed off’ for the night .. often with beautiful, patriotic, or regional slideshows. Remember CITY TVs paean to the city of Toronto?

That’s Toronto … People City ….

Good times.

But then, somewhere along the line, some edgy television exec decided that every broadcast moment had to turn a profit. Overnight, the sanctity of a news hour was discarded for the glitz and glamour of the tackiest of game show stages. Every decade, another of the venerable newscasters whom we’d come to trust and revere, was either rehabilitated into a botoxed, liposuctioned fashion plate, or unceremoniously shown the door for a younger, prettier, sexier, news reader.

On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news station. Headline News followed in 1982, .and MSNBC and FOX News were right behind them. News had effectively been monetized, and the world would never again be the same.  

I have to keep reminding myself that political junkies are only about 11% of the population. How are we supporting all of those stations?

It just seems like there must be even more of us. But that’s because social media – and a disturbingly populist wave –  has narrowed our visions. Everyone’s got an opinion on social media. But that doesn’t mean that everyone understands what they’re being force fed.

Right now, we in North America are awash in the hopes and dreams of political candidates, all of whom wish to steer their ships of state or nations.

But it seems that quite a lot of politicians – primarily those with a bend to the right – are more comfortable playing ‘gotcha!‘ with their opponents. Apparently that’s way easier than presenting a progressive, doable policy their party can follow, and their electorate can agree upon.

And many, many, many people are very easily lead. Once seeds of doubt and mistrust have been planted, social media is happy to keep watering those misdeeds with liberal tears.

A friend messaged me the other day, with this anecdote.

Who knew I never needed a head? or a brain?

“I was getting my hair cut, and they were all talking about Trudeau in blackface. I listened for about twenty minutes. None of them had seen the photo, but they were horrified. One had a friend that called her, crying.  When I explained that it was a picture of him at a party, dressed as Aladdin, and that he had darkened his face and hands, they all said, “ahhhh.. well that’s not so bad.” Then I quoted him as saying, “I am really pissed at myself.” They were all lovey dovey again until one of them started reading from her phone on why any colouring of the skin is racist and they were all up in arms again.”

It sure doesn’t seem like denigrating and mudslinging a political leader makes people very happy. In fact, it seems to only add to the miasma of uncertainty that so many have in recent elections.

Voters are already conflicted. Too many choose to vote against party leaders, rather than FOR a logical, progressive plan forward. Keep on tearing down those the voters want to look up to, and you’ll soon have an electorate that just can’t be bothered to vote at all.

That works out great for those parties that can’t win fairly. Those who choose to use dirty tricks, gossip and innuendo to attempt to sway swing voters towards their own party need to realize that these ruses serve to make voters even more distrustful and cynical of whomever is currently in charge of their country.  

Today’s smearing of Trudeau is tomorrow’s smearing of Scheer. And while both parties wallow in the mud, and try to defend themselves against attacks, neither party is actually working to make the voter’s life any better.

Most people are happiest when their country is chugging along, doing well economically, and not hurting those who are already hurting. Most people rarely think about hurting other people, just because they can.

But there are some people who will put financial gain above all else.

Today, the news is full of stories about American troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, to be used as paid mercenaries – soldiers of fortune against Iran. Trump says that America must put their own military on the line to die for ‘the kingdom’ because “Saudi Arabia pays cash.” 

The Saudis also paid cash to the murderers who perpetrated the attack on the United States on 9/11. And surely, their own dollars paid for the brutal murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Can you buy a nation’s soul with cash? Apparently you can, in the United States. The Saudis ‘pay cash’ … so they’ve bought trump .. and America’s might and military.

Canadians will soon be asked to either reinstate Justin Trudeau as prime minister, or to choose another leader to fill that position. That next leader will have to work with the United States, both economically, and politically.

The question we need to ask ourselves is .. will  our next leader also believe that everything we hold dear can be bought? Our planet, our bodies, our morals – are they all for sale? How much for our country ?

The question we need to ask ourselves is which leader we believe we can trust to behave morally and ethically when they are asked to make decisions about our relationship with America and the other countries of the world.

How much for your soul?

The 24 News Cycle Will Kill You


My name is Roxanne and I am a political news junkie. There. I’ve said it. And it’s the truth.

The 24 hour news cycle is like heroin – it’s a daily hit. At first you’re just chipping. You walk by the TV set and catch the end of some political atrocity that the talking heads are dicing into increasingly small, indigestible bits, and you sniff at the silliness. Maybe you suck your teeth at some inanity uttered by an obviously biased and paid hack.

But the next time you pass that same TV, you realize you’re beginning to recognize the lead characters in this drama, those with the weird names like Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. Before you know it, you’re wondering when Mika and Joe Scarborough will set a date for their wedding, and you’re even starting to know the bit players.

As you sink deeper into the drama that political news has become, your ‘event TV‘ viewing starts to largely consist of the big names, like Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell, and Sunday is definitely broken into a Face The Nation morning and a Last Week with John Oliver night.newsjunkie get your fix

Comic relief soon consists only of the monologues from the late night hosts riding the Orange Wave; Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. And Samantha Bee is your new girlcrush.

Nothing else can hold your attention. Your regularly scheduled relaxation television viewing has been supplanted by the need to be constantly on guard and aware of what the politicians are trying to slide past the people. Your love/hate relationship with current events has you so tied up in knots that you’d throw your television out the window, but then you wouldn’t be able to punch the screen!

Your background music now consists of CNNLive, and listening to the broadcasted testimony of Jeff Sessions, and the hours of posturing that follow as the anchors play good cop/back cop trying to uncover what just happened … and you realize …

you’re in deep. No longer content with news clips from as long as a week ago, nope, last week can’t give the hit of a clip from the night before .. or the hour before.

twittereffect1You’re as addicted as any junkie jonesing for a fix. You’re hooked on news, man, shucking and jiving and slapping your arm to pop up a vein.

The intensity of the last few months has left many breathless – the constant tweeting, the ridiculous and unenforceable edicts, the Executive Orders carving great swaths of America into more caviar for the 1% while taking the very bread out of the mouths of children – our noses are being constantly rubbed into the most shameless and flagrant abuse of power seen on our shores, in our lifetime.

We have front row tickets to the unraveling of democracy. You can look away, but it’s like that car crash on the highway … you know you’re gonna slow down and take a peek at the carnage, just like every other looky loo.

CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Headline News and all the little brother and sister cable and internet networks know that they have a willing and captive audience slavering for that next news hit. And they have 24 hours of airwaves to fill. When the cravings kick in, it’s a match made in hell.

the rich build networks and the poor watch themYou want to hear more, more, more – but there’s a danger in this addiction. Networks have their own politics, and trying to keep viewers tuning in is their quest. Regardless of how ‘fair and balanced’ these behemoths purport to be, their real bias is to finding what angle will bring in the most viewers, and pump in those yummy advertising dollars. Rachel Maddow may love her cheap blazers, but the execs are wearing much more expensive apparel, and that’s just the way they like it.

While it is indeed wonderful to have this banquet of 24/7 information at our fingertips, there’s a real risk in letting the drip drip drip of what can be mere speculation and innuendo turn us into armchair quarterbacks, pseudo-intellectuals, prisoners of little bubble fortresses where all within think alike and talk alike, who can neither hear nor understand those in all the other bubble fortresses who don’t think and talk exactly like us.

The divisiveness that has become our new and violent normal has it’s seeds in the lengths networks will go to, to shape their viewers points of view.

maddow-fox-newsThe 24 hour news cycle presumes that every issue has only two sides to it, and only one side is right. Of course, that’s neither true nor tenable. You are allowed, and even encouraged, as part of your civic duty, to understand the issues that preoccupy your nation and government. A news network, supposedly neutral, does not have the right to impose it’s own morality and biases upon it’s viewers. Your choice of network should not also be the source of your ethics and morality.

And yet – the networks often do exactly that. The networks act as the ‘dealers’ selling hits of outrage to the news junkies.

In the hands of the partisan network, the viewer learns little hard information, nor is there much depth to any argument. The ‘panels,’ made up of ‘experts’ chosen to imply that all sides of an issue are covered, are often little more than a group of people paid to whip up alarm, outrage, and frenzied fear.

And yes – that’s true of both the right and the left leaning media.

Yes, we need to be aware of the issues of the day, in our own country and in those countries where decisions made by their leadership can have an impact on the safety and governance of our own.

But I think it’s time to sort out the wheat from the chaff; the journalism from the junk food. Time to reward the solid writers and broadcasters who attempt, within their network, to work to actual fair and balanced standards. Time to turn the channel from those who depend on an atmosphere of fear and uncertainly, to those measured voices who seek to inform and explain what many of us may know instinctively, but have been counseled to ignore by those who profit from this destabilized and increasingly fractured populace.

I quitBut this is all too much. It’s deadly. We’ve go to get off this treadmill of constant political madness. We have to ignore the tweets and calls to action that are destabilizing not only America, but most of the world.

In the past, addiction was a personal thing.. being hooked on this political madness hurts too many people around us. I gotta stop letting this run my mind and my life.

I have to get a grip on this news addiction. I’ve gotta get off this apple sauce. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to have to go cold turkey, and stay off the politics needle until there’s something I can actually do to impact the injustices I condemn.

Ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant. A little, biased, knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And turning the people against each other only profits those who market civil unrest and war.

Resist. But resist wisely, and from a place of common ground and a desire to work together, not tear each other apart.