Fatigue isn’t a very nice word, is it? Personally, it reminds me of suburban mothers who can’t find a less exaggerated way to express how they have to feel when their cleaner has a week off and they have to – shock, horror – clean their own toilet. Or, the kind of word you only hear in the doctor’s surgery, like when I thought I was tired and it was glandular fever. Main symptom? Fatigue. Come on mate, it’s a fancy word for the same thing.
One context I think it can be used in where it genuinely does sum up a general feeling of lethargy (another one of those words) is in the context of societal malaise. I think that we’re seeing that, right now, with the current bombardment of moral and security-based panics around terror.
I can see this all around me – the look of tired expectance and exasperation when a group of kids called a Muslim man on my bus an ‘ISIS don’. A bile-filled missive grounded in ignorance. The passengers in Victoria not batting an eyelid at police with fuck-off guns casually patrolling the station. The fact that I’ve not met a single person actually shocked at the now-infamous sensationalist, divisive and patently methodologically lacking Sun headline.
There’s a real issue that comes from the constant bombardment of media in the 21st century that goes deep behind the tired clichés constantly trotted out by pundits who can’t cope with change. I know so many people who genuinely care about current affairs, about terrorism and Islamophobia and analysis, but are so overwhelmed by the constant input that they are fatigued to the point it’s hard to actually generate a genuine reaction.
Surrounded by opinion pieces clamouring to tell you that yes, this is definitely the right thing to do (and I am so aware of the irony of writing this in this format) it’s hard for even the most steadfastly opinionated person to remain convinced of their own opinion. And therein lies the problem – if you can’t sit through an hour-long lecture without checking your Facebook feed, you’re not going to be able to sit through being lectured by everyone from Owen Jones to Richard Littlejohn on the politics of terror without losing your capacity to pay attention.
There’s no way to counteract the inherent onslaught from the online world alone, let alone any other news source, except to just recognise it’s happening. If fatigue leads to apathy, and apathy leads to letting people call other people ‘ISIS dons’ as an everyday occurrence, something needs to be done. And if the best way to fight apathy is to remain aware of it, then we all need to stay woke.