When U.S. troops invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, I eagerly watched every move. The airstrikes and explosions were exciting. The constant updates on progress were addictive. For the first time in history, a person on the other side of the world could sit at home and watch people being killed on live television.
I can’t tell you now why I watched. There was nothing I could do about what was going on. The information was useless to me. Even if something I saw changed my mind about anything, what was I going to do about it?
I’m thinking about that today as Russian troops invade Ukraine. I’m not watching, but almost everybody I know is glued to the coverage of this bloody and outrageous invasion. Why are they watching? Because they’ve been brainwashed to believe responsible people “stay informed.”
The truth is that wars have become entertainment. All “news” is now entertainment and political theater. I’ve learned not to waste my time and attention on things I can’t control — and I hope you will learn this lesson which it took me way too long to learn.
I’m not minimizing the significance of what’s happening right now in Ukraine. This is an outrageous and immoral invasion. On an emotional level, I desperately wish someone would strike back against the Russian bear and defend the Ukrainians. I would love to see Vladimir Putin humiliated and stripped of power.
What Putin is doing is very similar to what Adolph Hitler did at the start of World War II. Hitler had German troops seize more and more territory around Germany, quite confident that nobody would stop him. He took the Sudetenland, then all of Czechoslovakia. Then it was Austria. Then Poland.
Hitler’s propaganda explained at each step why he was right to do what he did. He explained his aggression to the German people and they mostly believed his lies.
In 2014, Putin likewise stole the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and he paid no price for it. Today, he is just taking his aggression to its logical conclusion. Just as Hitler justified his invasions by claiming the lands he invaded were historically German, Putin is now claiming that Ukraine is traditionally Russian territory.
All of this is evil and wrong. The lesson — if you didn’t already know — is that Putin is a dictator and he lies constantly to justify doing whatever he wants to do. You can also reasonably conclude that permanent peace is pure fantasy when politicians are allowed to accumulate power with which to attack their neighbors.
If you need to take 10 minutes and brush up on the history of Ukraine and why this Russian invasion is based on lies, go ahead. It won’t take you long to learn everything you need to know.
But once you’ve done that — hopefully from books or some other print source — turn your television off and quit watching what’s going on in Ukraine right now.
There’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever happens there — terrible things, most likely — are going to happen no matter what you think. And the time you waste on a war you can’t control is time which you can’t spend on your own life.
We really are trained to believe that we’re supposed to watch such things. When you were in school, you probably got credit for knowing what was happening in the rest of the world every day. But all you’re doing is entertaining yourself.
The flow of up-to-the-minute information which we have come to call news is essentially meaningless, but there are powerful forces which want you to pay attention.
Politicians want you to keep watching because what you see inflames your emotions and make you easier for them to control. The big media companies want you to watch because they count on your attention to allow them to keep selling advertising.
If you’ve been watching the invasion, think about what you’re doing. What’s your purpose? What will you do with whatever information you gain? Is there anything you can do about it?
No, you have no real purpose. There’s nothing you can do with the information. And there’s nothing you can do about the war.
The future is bearing down on us like a speeding locomotive — and most of us have done little or nothing to prepare for our own future. Shift your attention. Deal with your own needs. Fix the problems in your own life.
Turn your television off and leave it off. You don’t need any “news.”