Ah, issue fatigue

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I can't tell if I'm getting smarter or the world is getting dumber, but I increasingly want to help my fellow man by providing advice on how to live their lives. So today Dr. John addresses issue fatigue. The American Psychiatric Association has not yet declared this condition a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, but it should.

Issue fatigue (IF) is caused by modernity. There are just too many things to worry about. A toxic combination of vastly increased complexity, globalization and exploding social media makes it impossible to be informed and/or concerned about so much. Our brains and hearts are just too small to take it all in. 

Not that long ago you had few issues to be up on — the harvest and dragons in the shire. Today you have to be up on everything: politics, science, geography, economics, medicine, technology, popular culture, sports. You can't focus on just your polis, you have to keep up on the whole planet. There are bad things that might kill you, ranging from loose nukes to asteroids and germs. And there are so many competing know-it-alls who have strong if poorly informed and/or reasoned opinions that are often exactly opposite. 

IF is a serious disorder that will only get worse.

Like the genius who first figured out that the appropriate shape for a wheel is round, I offer a very simple solution. First, divide all issues into two categories: important or trivial — i.e. can do something about or can't do anything about it.

Obviously if you can't do anything about the problem, forget it. These issues include American politics, foreign policy, global warming, and the economy. Spending time worrying about these admittedly big issues is an utter waste of time.

Next stop worrying about the trivial, and there is a lot of trivial. A missing plane in the Pacific, where LeBron James plays basketball, a starlet's baby bump. 

So what is left? Important issues over which you have at least a modicum of control. Start with yourself. Your mind. Your body. Your spirit. While you can't solve childhood obesity, you can lose 10 pounds. You could focus your attention on your relationships. Put your children, parents, siblings and friends at the center of your life. While you can't resolve the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis, you can get along better with your sister.

If you are still suffer from IF, consider this: there are six billion of us on one of a billion planets circling billions of suns in billions of galaxies, and this has gone on for billions of years. It will go on for billions of years more. The average life span in America is 81.1 years. Nothing is very important, and you have very little time to do anything about it.

Sad, yet comforting.

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Reader Comments

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Richard Vinson  

Posted: September 20th, 2019 4:37 AM

This article may be 5 years old but it addresses the reality so many of us face. There are simply too many "issues" to deal with. Every day we are bombarded with another "cause" that hast to be addressed right now - boycott this or march for that, or get angry about the other. It's exhausting. After awhile it's hard to care about any of it. Perhaps it's just me, but my guess is "ISSUE FATIGUE" is real for a good many of us. Stay well out there.

Rick Knight from Brookfield  

Posted: July 19th, 2014 8:20 PM

Mr. Hubbuch is just wrong. Most of the issues he mentions are squarely in our control, not as individuals, but collectively. That's at the very core of our democratic system. Cynicism is the enemy of democracy, and defeatism is the lifeblood of cynicism. Any one of us can walk into our Congressman's office and let our views be known, and if enough of us do the same, miracles can happen. But it needs numbers.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2014 10:04 AM

(cont.) They usually have great BS detectors, and when they see one side of a debate trying to shut down the other side, they will most likely assume it has something to hide, has the weaker argument, or both. Robert Caprara also has good advice: Those who are convinced that humans are drastically changing the climate for the worse and those who aren't should accept and welcome a vibrant, robust back-and-forth. Let each side make its best case and trust that the truth will emerge. Try this!

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2014 10:01 AM

Maybe you should read this: Those who do believe that humans are driving climate change retort that the science is "settled" and those who don't agree are "deniers" and "flat-earthers." Even the president mocks anyone who disagrees. But I have been doing this for a long time, and the one thing I have learned is how hard it is to convince people with a computer model. The vast majority of your audience will never, ever understand the math behind it. This does not mean people are dumb. (cont)

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