Is January always as bleak as it has been this year? Is it always this dark, cold and depressing? Are people always this rude, callous and xenophobic in January? Either way, I’m holding out for a better February.
In just over a week Britain will finally liberate itself from 40 years of oppression and to celebrate this historical moment, people will descend on Parliament Square, dressed as colourful unicorns, dancing the night away. It’s a shame we can’t get Big Ben to bong on that momentous night, but oh well, at least we’ll have a fabulous bonfire with all those EU flags going up in flames.
Only a pedant would bother pointing out that the EU flag is also the official flag of the Council of Europe, of which Britain will still be a member after Brexit. But don’t let such a technicality get in the way of a great street party. And if I don’t make it down to Parliament Square on Brexit night, I will be sure to decorate my home with pink unicorn balloons in honour of this historic moment.
Yes, future historians will surely write about 2020 as the ‘Great Year of Brexit,’ although some renegade fringe academics might also argue that 2020 was the year that ‘post-truth’ finally conquered the Anglo-Saxon world.
On a personal level, I am beginning to think that 2020 might be the year I give up the news. Granted, I am a news junkie and the first thing I do in the morning when I wake up is reach for my iPhone to check what’s been going on in the world while I was sleeping. And the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night is scrolling through my go-to news sites for a final update. And if I wake up in the middle of the night, what’s the first thing I do? Check the newsfeed, of course. Then again, as recently as last summer no one (me, least of all) believed I’d be capable of giving up meat, and yet I’ve been meat-free since November, so miracles do happen.
And now some Swiss writer has me thinking I must quit the news, not tomorrow, not next month or sometime in the future, but immediately, without delay.
I was browsing the stacks of newly released titles at our local bookstore last week when my gaze fell upon a slim book practically begging me to pick it up. So, I did. Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life, read the title. Always a sucker for books that promise to grant me inner peace and Gandalf-like wisdom, I couldn’t resist.
News, argues the author, is just as bad for us as alcohol if not worse. News is to the mind what sugar is to the body; “appetising, easily digestible and extremely dangerous.” I didn’t get much further than that in the book before I reached for my phone and proceeded to delete every news app on it. Next, I emailed the subscription department of the newspaper we get delivered through the letterbox every morning and asked them to cancel the subscription ASAP. I was going off the news. I then spent the next twelve hours, focusing so hard on not checking the news that I didn’t get anything done.
The following morning, I woke up and instinctively reached for my phone, only to remember that I was supposed to be news-free. I panicked. What if some earth-shattering event had occurred while I was sleeping and I was prevented from finding out about it because some news-free prophet in Switzerland wrote a book arguing for us all to quit the news? I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, breathing a sigh of relief upon seeing the newspaper lying on the floor.
Going cold turkey is perhaps not the best option for me, but I’m not giving up just yet on living a blissful news-free life. So, I am going for the soft option presented in subsequent chapters of the book, choosing a limited number of carefully chosen sources for my news intake. Not quite a detox, more like a diet.
Who needs the news anyway when Brexit is done, and the Garden of Eden has been recreated on sacred British soil?