- Special Projects
I no longer care what’s on the front page of the major newspapers. I don’t watch television, so no CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. I rarely dip into the blogosphere or social media.
Now, I pay close attention to local news, but only when coverage is in-depth. I peruse Civil Beat, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Ian Lind’s blog. I choose long-form podcasts over radio. And I prefer books to magazines.
Best of all, I hear the news while talking with people I meet on the street or with friends in coffee shops.
This transition reflects a move toward a minimal, local and Stoic way of life.
Hawaii is a land of constraint. Expensive land, scarce housing, congested roads. Import dependence and low-wage jobs.
In this place, less is more.
Avoiding the news allows me to focus on what is important: friends, family and work. These treasures are better than any material possession. They are also available to all in a way that wealth is not.
My generation cannot afford the large homes of our parents or grandparents. We will take to the sky in cramped apartments, assuming they aren’t first bought out by foreign investors. Or we’ll subdivide old houses, sleeping in bunk beds. Or we’ll join those without houses, living in public parks or on the street.
As traffic reaches its peak, we’ll give up hope of owning cars, leaving them to rust at the Middle Street merge. We’ll join the sharing economy, buy bicycles and ride TheBus (and maybe, before we die, DuhRail).
We will struggle to save for retirement, crushed by student debt.
I am preparing for all this now. I live simply, ready for lean times ahead. Each year, I own less, leaving what’s valuable to Goodwill and the rest to H-Power. My only vice is a swelling collection of books.
Everywhere, large and complex institutions are failing. The United States is fracturing along geographical, political and economic fissures. The European Union is at risk of dissolving. And the global international order is breaking up into regional blocs.
Technological innovation has birthed a fragile efficiency. The interdependent systems that produced unprecedented wealth are now vulnerable to rogue actors: terrorists and cyber criminals.
Dreams of global harmony have been replaced with local realities. It is time we confront ours: We are the most isolated archipelago on earth.
I often wonder what screaming (or tweeting) at Trump will do to change our position on a map.
The needs of our state are determined by position and history; they have little to do with the national contest between left and right. I wish our elected officials would attend to local needs instead of angling for higher office or taking sides in a partisan pissing contest.
I hope for renewed political debate about our local challenges. We need a conservative party seeking to hold government to account and conserve our local environment and unique culture. And we need a liberal party looking to enlarge the sphere of personal freedoms while providing for those left behind by the market.
I would rather engage locally than join a national debate I cannot shape or influence.
Thus, it does not matter to me who the Democrats nominate to challenge Trump. I am more concerned with who wins City Council District 4.
For two years, I’ve studied the work of the Stoic philosophers. Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius have shaped the way I view life. These thinkers believed a person cannot control events, but they can control their response to those events.
The Stoics disdained material possessions and creature comforts. They did not seek social approval, nor did they chase eternal life. Death, too, was a fate to be met with ease.
For the Stoics, a good life was one lived in accordance with virtue. For me, virtue no longer requires daily reading and reacting to the news.
We will take to the sky in cramped apartments, assuming they aren’t first bought out by foreign investors. Or we’ll subdivide old houses, sleeping in bunk beds. Or we’ll join those without houses, living in public parks or on the street.
Too often, news writing, sharing and discussion is driven by the pursuit of social approval. Hot takes are prized over deep understanding. Breadth substitutes for depth. The bandwagon steamrolls nuance.
Trendy authors write trendy articles for trendy publications. These articles are sometimes nothing more than a formulaic sequence of buzzwords.
Online discussions about the news take the same form. Battle lines are drawn in advance, and I’ve yet to see a mind changed via social media.
To my mind, it seems best to improve things within our control, starting with our homes, neighborhoods and cities. Virtue consists of living within our means and caring for those we love. We can argue on Facebook once we’ve filled all the potholes.
There was a time when I had utopian visions, a desire for radical change. Better now to focus on living a simple life, on caring for those close and dear to me. I don’t need much more.
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.