Every Crisis, Everywhere, All at Once

On 'Current Thing' fatigue, and the importance of knowing when to opt out of the discourse.

There’s so much going on right now, that the world is presently breaking even our finest comedians.

I’ve been talking about the news for seven f*cking years, and nothing changes. Nothing. My father said to me once, “Nothing has changed since the sixties. The shit people fight about is the same shit.” My father’s checked out. He no longer pays attention. He pets his dogs, he plays golf. He doesn’t care. That’s the only way to get by. Spy balloon!? Don’t read the article. But the spy balloons are everywhere! Who cares? . . . You get to a point with all this shit where we need to detox. We should delete Twitter. People need to go back outside, because at the end of the day, this has become a nightmare. Every day is a nightmare when you go on the internet. It’s a factory of horrors. 

I’m sick of commenting on any of this shit. The news is killing everyone. I feel like I’m a part of that. I don’t want to be a part of it. It’s destroying life on earth. And the happiest people I know barely pay attention to any of this shit. But I can’t, because it’s my job, so I have to go “Jennifer Lopez snaps at husband Ben Affleck at the Grammy Awards…”

-Tim Dillon

In a time of geopolitical unrest, domestic disaster, Chinese spy balloons, UFOs (?), war in Eastern Europe, new flu panic, culture wars over slovenly, attention-starved pretend-Satanists, and with the expectation to have opinions on the most asinine of pop culture — and even politicians being caught dipping their pen in company ink — it’s hard not to empathize with Dillon’s rant. (Which has been cut for brevity’s sake, and which runs, hilariously, for all of 1:05:38.)

I’ve been feeling that burnout since every third person turned into a spy balloon expert last week. As each new breathless tweet opined on closed airspace and hypothesized about the FlightAware patterns of unlisted U.S. military jets over the Great Lakes, I found myself trying to care, trying to form an opinion, but I just couldn’t manage to give myself over to this Current Thing.

It either comes naturally or it doesn’t. On matters that I’m well-versed in and familiar, I can keep the imposter syndrome at bay for long enough to churn out a column or a series of tweets, but I’m no Twitter epidemiologist, which means I can’t lay claim to expertise in all fields, like the never-not-wrong David Fisman, or his one-time partner in crime, the lugubrious Bruce Arthur.

There’s a reason that both professional bodybuilders and wrestlers carry a mortality rate that’s higher than the average Western male. When one is in ‘competition mode,’ and spends large periods of time redlining their engine, the system wears down faster; too much is asked of the heart in too short a time period.

I’ve started to think about that concept of redlining the engine every time I log on and find myself met by That Which I’m Supposed To Be Worried Or Upset About.

We already live in an era of ‘reporters’ who self-identify as disabled as a means to rationalize their hypochondria. Like it or not (and we shouldn’t like it), these are the people who have been entrusted with the most timeless of tasks: keeping the general public distracted or terrified at the behest of someone else. (In the spirit of inclusivity, perhaps it’s best to insert whichever shadowy special interest or government agency you prefer.)

That means we’re now expected to reside in a space between the routine existential dread that comes with age, and practically having the change ready in our pockets to pay the Ferryman’s Toll. Never mind that spy balloons were already a thing, and already up there, and that some of them may be measuring for readings as mundane as barometric pressure, we’re being made to care by the same organizations we learn and unlearn to trust within the span of each election cycle.

They could be aliens, or armed!

That matters, surely, but perhaps less than we’re being asked to imagine. And in a myriad of complicated ways…

Without trying to sound too much like Andrew Tate, to become conscious of some of the Problems With The Present Discourse is to break the machine entirely.

While pundits and algorithms are busy with matters of frivolity and “fat trans Satanists” (to borrow from a now-beloved Tim Dillon rant), it’s all but a certainty that the United States intelligence apparatus were the ones behind the sabotaging of the Nordstream pipeline, thousands are still missing after the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the air and the rivers appear to have grown toxic in East Palestine, Ohio.

Not a single one of these stories presently graces the front page of the Toronto Star, yet each feels just as worthy of that coveted Current Thing status.

There’s a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. It disappears. All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time.

Ford v. Ferrari (2019)

We were never meant to consume information quite like this. That point where “everything fades,” to borrow from Hollywood’s interpretation of Ken Miles — and for the purposes of this extended metaphor on engine wear — involves all but locking away your frontal lobe, and then swallowing the key.

But in order for the real things to still feel like they matter, it’s important to know when to keep it in third or fourth gear.

So this is yours truly deciding to opt out of the balloon discourse. And I invite you to come along. Heck, pick your own topic to take a break from, any topic at all.

The mayor of a major Canadian city having a personal indiscretion leaked for public consumption, and for what are likely political reasons? I agree, not as big a deal as, say, that same City Hall presiding over two years of closed businesses, schools, parks, an overabundance of bylaw enforcement, and the weaponization of snitch lines meant to ensnare normal healthy families.

The new bird flu? Tell me about it. Why would we trust the authoritarian anxieties of the same histrionic personalities who were so deeply and immeasurably wrong about all things Covid, lockdowns, and the downstream harms of various mandates?

Seeing Satanic symbols everywhere? Also not for me. If the Sam Smiths of the world are guilty of any impropriety, it’s the crime of lookin’ gross while engaged in displays of narcissism that aren’t all that dissimilar to the replacement-level bilge that fills up our streaming services and discover pages on the daily.

It’s been unseasonably warm and sunny this February in Toronto. Choose to open your phone or laptop, and watch as the storm clouds roll in. I’m going to take my own advice, and continue to enjoy these practically balmy conditions for just a little while longer.

At least until the next Current Thing.

The original version of this post was published on the author’s own site, Acceptable Views, and has been reprinted with permission.