This week I have been thinking about fatigue, and how it is the enemy of progress. As Brexit day loomed, the main challenge on the Better Politics beat for me as a writer was to write a piece that rose to the significance of the moment. Here it was at last, Brexit Day, after years of build up. And all I felt was fatigue. Instead of trying to force an angle, I wrote about that. How the grinding legal processes in parliament and the UK supreme court dulled the senses, how the constant circular conversations about leaving the European Union (EU) and remaining in the EU broke the spirit. By the time Brexit day had come around, all passion had ebbed away and left only fatigue in its place.
But fatigue is a dangerous thing. So much more dangerous than rage. Fatigue leads to passiveness, and then, in turn, submission. The same can be said of the grinding and never-ending deluge of drama that is the Trump administration in the US.
There is a lethal combination that results in brain fry: too many things happening in quick succession, and yet nothing new happening in between such events, and so the space is filled with white noise. When Trump assails political norms on a daily basis on Twitter, it’s only a matter of time before his swearing and abuse becomes the norm. We can’t live in a heightened and continuous state of shock and offence all the time. It’s probably linked to some primal need to survive, to adapt to oppressive circumstances or otherwise perish. That basic human propensity for adaptation to a change in the political atmospheric pressure is the reason we look back at horrific events in history and think, where were the good people?
Exhausted and checked out probably.
One of the additional reasons fatigue is such a prevalent thing at the moment is the way the media covers politics now. Instead of an update on the news, politics is now a 24-hour conversation – whether there is anything new to say or not. If there is no new angle, it is forced. The human brain can only absorb so much at a time before it tunes out.
The lesson of Brexit fatigue is that it is important to give ourselves a break, some distance if possible, from current affairs and how they are covered if we feel like we are being dragged along against our will and reconnect with how we really feel. Whatever that feeling is, it is ultimately a more constructive one than fatigue.