I can't claim this as an original insight. I read it long ago and have enjoyed recalling it whenever politics, economics, the weather, scandals, and outrages combine in a particularly nasty way. I've been thinking about the idea a lot lately.
The Euro is hovering at the edge of a precipice. If it goes, it will take the world's economy with it. The Republicans have assembled quite a circus of potential presidents and are trying them out. A couple of them look like fine people; the rest can only scare anyone with a brain, or, as one of them said in a debate, a heart. The Democratic nominee-apparent, the incumbent, did not prove up to much of the hope placed in him (and evoked deliberately by his most famous campaign poster). He was said to have been reading about fellow-Illinoisan Lincoln in the days leading up to his inauguration in 2009. He's tried Lincoln's ceaseless patience with his political foes, and ended up with some accomplishments to show for it. But he's as reviled as Lincoln at the low moments of the Civil War. He may end up remembered more like another Illinoisan, Ulysses Grant, who squandered his promise and came to be regarded as a horrible president, one of the worst in polls of historians.
Alabama, my home state and birth state, has embarrassed itself badly with an immigration statute designed to reverse the rise in its Hispanic population. Yesterday, a visiting German manager from Mercedes was arrested for not having his papers with him while driving (oh, historical irony, thank you for that good chuckle). The governor's office called nearly instantly to try to fix the problem. I'm betting no Guatemalans will be extended that courtesy.
I could go on and on about the banking system, the world's climate and population explosion, the stagnant American economy, the collection of thieves and ignoramuses elected to the U.S. House and Senate, and the even worse crew in Alabama's government (I speak in a truly bipartisan spirit: Democrats pillaged for decades in Alabama while they were a monopoly and became a machine whose sole purpose was keeping itself in power and skimming money off the top of tax receipts; it's simply the Republicans' turn now).
On an everyday level, it looks much different. This is our salvation, and maybe a lesson about what's truly important. While the world is a mess, many people in it are wonderful. True, they have their quirks, lies, skeletons, and selfish moments. Yet most of them, most of the time, are a pleasure to deal with or can, if we choose, be pitied for what they're suffering rather than hated for how their pain manifests itself as fear and anger toward others.
The "news" is always going to be mostly bad. It's created, commoditized, and distributed in order to make a profit. Bad stories about particular incidents grab far more eyes, and thus money, than good stories about general trends at the micro level. We won't read or view reports about how usually people are going about their lives showing at least a modicum of respect for each other and not deliberately trying to inflict harm in order to please the false gods of money, fame, or power. Maybe that's why the stories about politicians are so fascinating. Their behavior is so aberrant compared to anything we witness, would practice, or could get away with.
That such people rule and do harm from selfishness is not truly "news" -- how could it be when it's not at all new? We just can't predict who exactly will act in such ways while we less assertive sorts are going about our daily business. The "news" is therefore but a freak show skewing rather than uncovering reality. I'll likely continue to read and watch, fascinated as I am by the fixation on destruction exhibited by the allegedly powerful. You might say I have my own fixation, on the blind and predictable choices made by those who can't or won't develop a meaningful and helpful philosophy of life and a long-term view on events. I'll also know they will, as they always have, botch their jobs and push us repeatedly to the brink. I'd like to hope for better, but I haven't seen that humans are capable of it.
That's the way of the world and of people. I don't see the point in being upset about it. Do you?