Last week my husband ordered the Al Jazeera English channel from our cable provider and I must say wow!

This is not a commercial for Al Jazeera, but rather a lament at what CNN has become and a further lament to the lack of depth in most North American media.

When CNN is still dithering over the miners, milking the ratings for all their worth, Al Jazeera updates on them quickly and moves on to the other things going on in the world like the mega typhoon that is set to hit the Phillipines!

Al Jazeera tells real news! And it’s SO refreshing!

I remember speaking to a journalist a while back, I think she was from the CBC and she was sure that some story she was working on was sure to be the next day’s water cooler talk.

That’s what CNN and most news channels seem to have boiled down to.

Instead of telling us what’s going on around the world, the newscasters seem to be trying to provide endless trivia that people can show off with at the water coolers of their workplaces, in the hopes of looking informed.

It reminds me of that scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary when Bridget is trying to impress Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant’s character) with her worldy knowledge by bringing up the plight of Chechnya. And Daniel Cleaver casually says, “I don’t give a …. about Chechnya.”  And Bridget kind of laughs, because it’s clear that she actually doesn’t either.

I have to admit the first time I watched the movie that scene just skimmed right past me. Maybe it was because I was so caught up in rooting for Bridget that I didn’t see what was really being said.

Then I thought, wait a minute! The Chechnyans, they’re Muslim. If they don’t give a …. about them, I should. And it put the whole movie in a very different, much more nasty context.

And then I thought how very racist that I was! In that it seemed I was telling myself I should care just because they are Muslim, and I chastised myself for that!

I should be caring because they’re people, and they’re suffering.

And yet the movie never deals with that. Even that pathetic attempt at depth when she interviews the Mark Darcy character focuses on the love affair between the British woman who’s, (yet again! Oh Lord!) saved the foreigner (Kurdish freedom fighter in this case).

These are scenes that makes white people feel better about themselves. So they can tell themselves, “Oh look! How wonderful we are! We’re giving this man asylum!”

And yes, western countries often do, do wonderful things like that.

Unfortunately the citizens in western countries don’t dwell on the ways their governments undermine the stability of other nations. The average citizen in North America has no idea that part of their standard of living is because of the exorbitant interest of third world debts that were acquired by unscrupulous political leaders on behalf of third world countries who could not afford them. Leaders who received kickbacks in the process and who have, as a result, impoverished the countries who are stuck with the bill and will be for umpteen more generations because they are still trying to pay off the capital of those debts!  

Some of this came to light with Haiti, when it was found that it, being the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, is still paying France off for the privilege of leaving them to rule themselves and no longer be a colony.

Some people said that Haiti’s debt should be forgiven.

When Jean Chretien, the former prime minister of Canada, was ready to leave office, he said something that gave me tremendous respect for him. He said that it was time that first world countries should stop living on the backs of the poor and all third world debt should be forgiven, so that these countries could start taking that money and instead using it to build schools and infrastructure for their own populations.

The Western countries are famous for the billions they give in aid. But what if they instead, were to let the debts go.

I think that would be true generosity.

And it would give those countries a real chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

And why should we care?

Well because the world is a smaller place now. There is no place you can’t reach within a day or two of travel. And when we prop up dictators and injustice overseas, we can no longer be sure that our petty favourtism won’t come back to haunt our shores in the form of terrorism.

But that’s not the real reason we should care.

We should care because it’s the right thing to do.

And we should care because they’re human.

And caring begins with being informed.

And when informing ourselves, look for real news! Not water cooler discussions!