What follows indignation fatigue?
By E.F Nicholson
I can honestly say at times I generally feel tired and worn out from my own internal reactions to the information I am on the receiving end of. Things-that-matter.net is a blog we have put together as our response to what’s going on in the world and a small attempt to bring some greater awareness to how far up Shit Creek we are heading as a global village and how unnecessarily devastating it is for so many.
Doing so in a current and relevant way means staying informed of what’s going on economically, politicly and environmentally. It means being exposed to a seemingly endless stream of bad news, be it the latest report of rising sea levels or how the Tories just won the election with a mandate to screw the poor and enrich their friends. Alternative news site like The Intercept, CounterPunch, Truthdig, The Real News Network, Truthout, etc., are never short on news pertaining to ongoing social injustice, corruption and the truth behind the public getting shafted and lied to by their own governments. The standard reaction to this news is to feel indignation, outrage, sadness and some sense of wanting to fight and fix what’s wrong. That’s on a good day; on a bad day it can be depression, despair and an overall existential sense of futility.
All this gets me wondering about the value of my indignation, as the world spins and fate unfolds independently of how indignant I feel. Then, beyond its value, there is just a question about my capacity to continue feeling this way, hence the title of the article. I feel fatigued, not because I am some tireless social activist burnt out from years in the field, but rather because I am just drained from a constant state of quiet ire at the ways of the world and endless injustices and wrongdoings. How long can you shake your fist at the sky, shouting, “That’s so wrong,” or “Hey, that guy’s an asshole,” without ending up feeling like King Canute demanding the tides stop on his orders? If I take that away, what I am left with? A numb indifference? A wilful ignorance?
I see around me many very intelligent and insightful writers and commentators on world affairs who do such a great job of critiquing, questioning and fighting the fight that needs to be fought. So does the world really need another blog pointing out those same things? Booming out its own unique slant of self-righteous outrage? Part of me thinks not. Part of me thinks even if it does, I don’t know if I can do it any more, either way. Could my energy be better spent focusing on what’s right in the world? What’s true? What’s loving and kind, rather than just being another voice of what’s wrong, unjust and completely fucked up? As much as I enjoy the work of authors such as Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra, something that annoys me in their teachings is the complete absence of what’s wrong with our society; it is this exclusive focus on the individual happiness and journey, as if the collective self and the personal self are shaped exclusively from the personal to the collective, rather than the other way round. For me, a focus on how we can each feel happier and more whole, to the exclusion of the environment we inhabit and societal structure we are born into, seems trite and false. Yet, to focus only on the environment and wider collective issues is downright exhausting and tiring.
So what do I do with my focus and output? The answer is: I genuinely don’t know. This isn’t an article with some conclusion, but rather one sharing with whoever reads it this personal dilemma I feel I am in. I am tired of feeling angry about the world, but I just don’t know whether what follows doesn’t require denial or disconnection. As it’s an unfolding question, I assume it will get an unfolding and evolving answer. If between now and then I have some epiphany or mega metanoia I will be sure to let you know.