hg: Simplify Discontent

It’s time to vote again and there’s a familiar sense of impending doom.

By pointing out everything wrong with the country at once, elections give the impression we’re in complete chaos. It’s therefore only natural we want the new government to fix everything immediately.

History says we must be patient.

Progress is, and always has been, a slow plod. The fight to let women vote - such a fundamental right - was waged for nearly 100 years and constantly rebuffed by parliaments. And there are still remnants of “the goddamn patriarchy”.

Each individual battle takes time and immense effort, yet we want everything resolved now. This gulf, between what we want and what can realistically be achieved, inevitably leads to despair.

It can be tempting to just ignore issues to alleviate our frustrations. We’d worry less and feel happier about the state of the world.

But indifference is too high a price for personal solace. We can’t all ignore what’s wrong with the world for our own benefit. Not forever. Being pissed off about something is the first step towards making it better. If we ditch our discontent, nothing’s going to improve.

We need to acknowledge problems and help to tackle them without being overwhelmed.

This can be done by simplifying our discontent - by each focusing on one or two issues and downscaling them with achievable steps, rather than being engulfed by the big picture.

There’s no point torturing yourself over the peril facing millions of refugees, for example. If you feel strongly about their suffering, consider volunteering for an organisation that helps refugees in your local area. This is a more manageable goal than solving the crisis single-handedly and you’ll be much more productive.

Perhaps climate change concerns you. Try not to crumble under its magnitude or resort to fantasies of miracle cures. Instead, think about how you can reduce your ecological footprint and help others in your community to do the same.

This approach is difficult when news stories about a million different things vie for our attention. I definitely struggle not to get swept up in the latest outrage. But we must not get overwhelmed. If we each focus on fewer issues and simplify them, so it’s easier to act on our discontent, we’d get less frustrated and be less likely to give up.