When I first moved to California, I was struck by the serenity of Silicon Valley. It was shortly after the first Gulf War. Just a few months earlier we spent our nights in a make-shift shelter inside our apartment in Israel. The air-raid sirens went off almost every night forcing us to wake up our small kids and quickly fit gas masks over their heads. We all cowered and waited to hear the Iraqi scud missile explode near by.  In comparison, California seemed so quite – almost too quite.

I remember opening the local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, and imagine my big surprise when I found out that the biggest item on the news was the upcoming elbow surgery of Joe Montana, the legendary San Francisco 49’ers quarterback. The only war being fought that weekend was on the football field, between the 49’ers and the Green Bay Packers.

may-you-live-in-interesting-times

Really?!

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that under the facade of serenity many “business battles” were raging: Intel vs. AMD, Apple vs. Microsoft, and so on. Yet all was quite on the home front: as soon as I left the office, I was engulfed again by tranquility. And the weekends, oh the weekends. It seemed as if everything came to a stand still on Friday afternoon, and the main worries were which restaurant to frequent, where to go for a hike, or a bike ride.

But ‘man shall not live by serenity alone’. While work was engaging and demanding, it seemed there should be more to life than restaurants and trips. I felt somewhat detached from the society around me. I didn’t really know who the city mayor was, or the name of our congressman. I didn’t try to fully understand American politics, what propositions to vote for and why. Even presidential elections seemed more like a raffle than a civil duty. Life around seemed just a bit too quite.

Twenty-five years later and here I am – back in Israel. Last summer I found myself again cowering in a make-shift home shelter, waiting to hear the explosions that indicate ‘Iron Dome’ intercepted yet another missile fired from Gaza. Early this year I participated in the Israeli parliamentary elections, which were one of the most heated political contests I ever witnessed. And just within the last several months, I attended several demonstrations and rallies.

And yes, there is Facebook. That wonder-app that is supposed to bring all of us together, and make good on the promises that “The World is Flat”, and we all live in a “Global Village”. Yet Facebook became an ‘arena’ where individuals collide in brute (verbal) force. Got an opinion? Why not lash at anyone else who has a slightly different opinion than yours? All it takes is a few keyboard strokes…

And the news, oh my god the news… Forget Joe Montana and his injured elbow. The Israeli media has an infinite supply of events and scandals; each seems bigger than the previous one. Pick your choice: terror attacks, sexual harassment by senior public servants, corruption plots, and never ending right-left wing bickering. You name it – it’s in the press, websites, radio, TV and of course – Facebook.

If you are looking for some serenity, there seem to be only two choices: a) shut yourself completely from traditional and social media; b) take a trip abroad. The first is very hard to do; the second can only serve as a temporary relief.

There is a famous Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”. Ironically, after reading the Wikipedia article, I found out this phrase was apparently invented by the British and attributed to the Chinese (how fitting…) The original Chinese phrase is most likely: “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.”

I remember that when I used to complain about California being too boring, I was often told by a friend that “you’re going to miss that quietness”. Boy was she right.

It feels like there is a national addiction to “crisis atmosphere” within Israelis. That addiction is continuously fueled by the media, both traditional and social. Sure, some of these crises do take place, yet many others are blown well beyond proportion. TV and Radio talk show hosts, news anchors, daily newspaper editors, cadres of reporters, and ordinary citizens search desperately for the ‘daily calamity’ and spread it like wild fire.

I am proposing a “news cease fire”: when you look for the next item to bring up in your show, print in your newspaper, post on your website, mention in your blog, or share on your Facebook wall simply ask yourself these questions:

If you answered “No” to any of the first two questions, or “Yes” to the last one – simply drop the item. The world will be a better place for it.

No, I am not looking to lock myself in a “tranquility cocoon”. Neither do I want to spend my life trying to detach myself from the surrounding environment. But I do appreciate some dull moments every once in a while. We all do.

 

Advertisements