In what has been a tumultuous couple of weeks, the past few days had left me with a feeling I couldn’t quite put a finger on. Until I heard about the term Outrage Fatigue. That’s it, I thought. That is exactly what I am feeling. I am not tired of being upset about all the crap that goes on, rather I am exhausted by the seemingly never-ending flow of bad news, bad people, bad countries and bad situations. Liberals are angry, conservatives are angry, heck, everybody seems to be spending a lot of time ticked off with the result being not a lot of action is taking place and even less getting done. It isn’t complacency; people do still care but the element of being shocked or surprised seems to have diminished to the point of the outrageous becoming the usual. As Professor John Seery puts it, “brooding despair has seemed to me to be the more appropriate emotional response than prickly indignation. One throws up one’s hands, and sighs.” Exactly right!
Seery is an intersting bloke. As well as being a contributor to the Huffington Post, he is a Professor of Politics at Pomona College. He holds his B.A. (Amherst), M.A. and PhD (both from Berkeley). I love that his areas of expertise include: civil disobedience, democratic theory, feminist politics, hell and comedy. Seriously! Check out his profile. In writing about outrage fatigue in a 2007 column (in relation to the Bush/Cheney era), he states: “Woe to us now. Is it just I, or have we indeed been electing into federal office, in the last decade or so, an unusually high number of goons, dimwits, thugs, flim-flam men, con artists, panderers, philanderers, perverts, prevaricators, prostitutes, bozos, B-actors, crazies, wackos, racists, scoundrels, criminals, and outright traitors? The Duke Cunninghams, Tom DeLays, and Larry Craigs don’t seem to be simply the isolated exceptions and bad apples–they’re just the ones who got caught. How is it that Dick Cheney can out a C.I.A. agent and not be run out of town as a traitor to this country? How is it that nutso Mike Huckabee can refer to staying indefinitely in Iraq as a matter of “honor?” How is it that a delusional frat boy with a fake Texas accent can dictate the terms of war for five years running? Why, in the Lord’s name, won’t the too-clever-by-half Democrats stand up to the hideous and senseless war mongering? Has the entire system of governance become corrupted beyond repair? I find myself hoping that a professional comedian gets elected in Minnesota in order to provide some modicum of truth-telling and honest leadership in the highest public offices in the land. The Founders, however, probably wouldn’t find that situation very funny.”
Ha!!! Seery has many more areas of interest and would have made a very cool professor back when I was doing my electives at University!
In an attempt to refresh my sensitivity I look to the one source that never fails to help ~ The Onion. Again, I am amazed by their breadth of reporting and share with you the following archived item, from July 7, 2004 (this has clearly been a problem for many in the United States for a long time! Thanks George W.!). Oh, did I say that out loud? What?
“WASHINGTON, DC—According to a study released Monday by the Hammond Political Research Group, many of the nation’s liberals are suffering from a vastly diminished sense of outrage. “With so many right-wing shams to choose from, it’s simply too daunting for the average, left-leaning citizen to maintain a sense of anger,” said Rachel Neas, the study’s director. “By our estimation, roughly 70 percent of liberals are experiencing some degree of lethargy resulting from a glut of civil-liberties abuses, education funding cuts, and exorbitant military expenditures.”San Francisco’s Arthur Flauman is one liberal who has chosen to take a hiatus from his seething rage over Bush Administration policies. “Every day, my friends send me e-mails exposing Bush’s corrupt environmental policies,” said Flauman, a member of both the Green Party and the Sierra Club. “I used to spend close to an hour following all the links, and I’d be shocked and outraged by the irreversible damage being done to our land. At some point, though, I got annoyed with the demanding tone of the e-mails. The Clear Skies Initiative is bogus, but I’m not going to forward a six-page e-mail to all my friends—especially one written by a man who signs his name ‘Leaf.’ Now, if a message’s subject line contains the word ‘Bush,’ it goes straight into the trash.”
Neas found that many survey participants who attended protests against the war in Iraq in 2003 could barely summon the energy to read newspaper articles about the subject in 2004.Portland, OR resident Suzanne Marshal compared herself to an addict, needing increasingly large doses of perceived injustices to achieve a state of anger. “Even though I know how seriously messed-up the situation is in Iraq, I’ve became inured to all but the most extreme levels of wrongdoing,” Marshal said. “For months, no amount of civilian bombing could get me mad. Then those amazing photos of the tortured Iraqi prisoners hit the streets, and I got that old rush of overwhelming disgust with my government. Then more photos came out, and more officials were implicated, and now—I don’t know. It’s like a switch in my head turned off again.”
Neas said that the danger of fatigue was greater among liberals who regularly seek cause for outrage. “For a while, I wanted more fuel for the fire, to really get my blood boiling,” said Madison, WI resident Dorothy Levine, a reproductive-rights activist and former Howard Dean campaign volunteer. “I read the policy papers on the Brookings web site. I subscribed to The Progressive. I clipped cartoons by Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall. I listened to NPR all day. But then, it was like, while I was reading Molly Ivins’ Bushwhacked, eight more must-read anti-Bush books came out. It was overwhelming. By the time they released Fahrenheit 9/11, I was too exhausted to drag myself to the theater.” “It used to be that I would turn on Pacifica Radio and be incensed at the top of every hour,” Levine added. “Now, I could find out that Bush plans to execute every 10th citizen and I’d barely blink an eye, much less raise a finger.”
Of the liberals afflicted with fatigue, many said they are still haunted by the spectres of their former outrage. “I can’t even look at the back of my Volvo anymore,” said one Syracuse, NY liberal who wished to remain anonymous. “My ‘Lick Bush’ and ‘Four More Wars’ bumper stickers just remind me of the angry feelings I can’t sustain. I still have a MoveOn.org sign hanging up in my cubicle at work, but if someone starts to talk about Cheney, I can’t take it. I’m like, ‘Yes, we all hate Cheney. He’s an evil puppet-master. Yes, Bush is dumb. This is obvious. How many times can we say it? Now, excuse me, will you let me through so I can microwave my burrito?'”
Phew. While I recognize the content of The Onion article is dated and completely American-centric, along with being from The Onion, but it does help make my point about where people’s minds and emotions are at theses days. The humour, for me, is a perfect antidote to a malaise that is becoming more wide-spread with each passing day.