I have to confess to being a bit of a news junkie. As me and the team paint and decorate our way around Worcester and the lovely county that we are privileged to live in, we often have the radio on in the background and, more often than not, it ends up being the news on Radio 4 after a long drama featuring the dream-like idles of Thomas Hardy's Wessex or some classic Victorian gruesomeness by Charles Dickens.
And let's face it, the news today is unremittingly grim. Things that would once have been the preserve of dystopian social horror films seem to have elbowed their way into reality with all the seething rage of a hungry wolverine: from wars, economic meltdown, mass terrorism, environmental collapse and climatic Armageddon, it all seems as though Satan himself has taken over the role as the editor-in-chief of the news. (In reality we just have Murdock. So I think we're lucky there).
For young people, this is a particular problem in two key ways. We've all heard how they, as a demographic strata, voted to remain in the EU, and this uncertainty added to all this dire, unending news is no doubt making them feel glum (as it does to me sometimes). But for them (and not so much for me due to my age), they don't have a long period of real life to compare it with. I remember the 80s, and the 70s, and how life was then, with the Cold War threatening to turn hot at any moment. I remember the Ozone layer, and the 90s recession, and the ERM crisis. My point is that news is rarely as bad as the pundits proclaim it is. It is also rarely as good as they say it is too. Real life is usually in between.
The second reason it is more of a problem for the young is the way that news is consumed these days. On Facebook, news stories are 'self-selecting.' If you click on one story, Facebook's artificial stupidity algorithm will give you more of the same. So, if you click on news about terrorism and ecological collapse, you will simply be served more of it, and gradually you will cease to see any other news stories at all. In effect, it is brainwashing a whole generation who are picking news according to their and their friends' interests: there is no time for voices of opposition or news that runs a positive story.
I think that it is also causing a lot of younger people some quite serious depression for the long term.
This is something that I see whenever I work with apprentices and younger people. I always try to reassure them without sounding like Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss, where 'everything happens for the best,' but I do believe there is an element of truth to what I am saying. In my experience, the human race learns very quickly, and the next generation coming up are as finely educated as any that has gone before. We, for the most, aren't evil or wicked, being so more out of ignorance than purpose, yet when we need to, we can achieve great things. We can adapt very quickly as a species.
As a decorator, I console myself by doing a good job for my clients, and making sure those who work with me are looked after. I take both a joy and a pride in my work, and I make sure that those capable decorators I paint with are likewise so motivated.
And whenever one of them shakes their head in despair at what we hear over the airwaves, I simply remind them of the simple joys of doing our work well.
There really is a sublime beauty in a perfectly painted line.