I remember my grandfather propped uncomfortably on his arm chair, hand on cheek with his ear tilted towards the brown box. He would listen to it like it would breathe life into his soul. In his later years he would be sitting on a couch, with the same hand on the same cheek but instead of a big brown box, it was a small grey plastic radio with a long antenna.
My grandmother would do the same on her same device, but would listen to Um Kalthoum, Asmahan, and Najat between the news.
Monte Carlo, London, BBC, Middle East, whatever station it was, every hour on the hour they would tune in and feed their minds with updates. Four short beeps followed by a fifth long one, then an announcement of where they are broadcasting from.
In the late 80s, when my parents were living in the gulf, long before satellite channels, internet, and mobile phones, my father would rush home at 8 to watch the news on the only local TV station. It was his religion.
In the 90s, the start of the gulf war, CNN was on air, my father bought a new digital black radio with a long wire antenna that has a clip at the end of it; he could extend it all the way to the window to make sure he gets a clear crisp signal. For the length of the 44 days he was glued to the small box.
Mid 90s came the glory. Al Jazeera satisfied the cathartic masochistic urge of being updated by regional events.
2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 was a festive one.
Lebanon, Beirut, Gaza, Flotilla, Iraq, Afghanistan, Greece, Russia, China. Now Darra, Homs, Hama. It cascaded into squares, Tahrir, then streets, Mohamed Mahmoud. Economic meltdowns, financial crisis, dictators toppling, revolutions. No coverage of good news. Not one Arab new station covered the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners; it made people happy, and who wants that?
I have seen my grand parents’ generation and my parents’ witnessing world events, mesmerized, depressed. The only thing they did was watch behind a glass, now plastic, screen and tut themselves to sleep every night.
I tried to watch the news. I would brace myself on my couch and forced myself to listen to a heartless, emotionless, news anchor who stare down at me, while I try to follow the ticker at the bottom of the screen in order to consume as much of the world events as I can.
I never understood how after any attack a party is blamed within 15 minutes of it. I mean, as I have seen written on a poster in a demonstration, “You cannot know who staged the attack within 15 minutes. A urine analysis takes longer.”
So I have taken a conscious decision not to watch the news. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I refuse to become an emotionless person. I will not stand before the screen and weep. I will not look at numbers in surprise. I will not tut like guinea pig. I will not smoke a pack of cigarettes out of frustration at the news. I will not smirk at their live debates.
This has caused me mental paralysis.
I don’t need to be unhappy to be informed. After the dust of whatever happened has settled, I will read a few articles on it. So until I decide to become an actor and not a spectator of the injustices that are happening in the world, I will not follow the news. My sanity and happiness are at stake.