"What’s going to happen now?" friends, colleagues and family members ask on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Last night, over dinner, the frustration of one friend overtook our evening. "But who will be our next prime minister?" she asked. "And what about Brexit? Is no-deal actually for real? What’s going on with the Irish border? Is anyone doing anything about the climate crisis?"
Honestly, I don’t know. People’s faces always change, folding into frustration and disbelief when you say this. We can all guess at how this turns out but the truth is that nobody – not the men competing to be in charge of the country, not the senior civil servant in charge of no-deal planning who just quit, not journalists and not voters – really knows what happens next and absolutely everybody is struggling to keep up.
After years of political turmoil, all of us, regardless of how we voted in the EU referendum, have been left reeling, confused and frustrated by politics and politicians. On top of that, we’re all completely overwhelmed by what feels like a constant tsunami of (mostly bad) news. Earlier this year an Ofcom report found that 78% of us are concerned about our internet usage and worried about the material we’re consuming while we scroll. But at the same time, that report also found that we’re caught in a feedback loop, trapped by the FOMO that the fast pace of today’s news cycle has created. A third of Britons now say they're avoiding the news because of "Brexit frustration".
I'll be the first to say it. I think there's too much news.
I’ll be the first to say it. I think there’s too much news. In the last few months it feels like we’ve had a year’s worth of news. Doesn’t the outrage over Dominic Raab’s confession that he is "probably not" a feminist seem like it happened a lifetime ago? Blink and you may have missed the fact that Jeremy Hunt is in favour of reducing abortion limits from 24 to 12 weeks.
These days, a week feels like a very long time. Since last Friday alone, a lot has happened. Have we all moved on now from the row at the home Carrie Symonds shares with Boris Johnson? What about the inexplicably grainy, possibly staged photo of the pair sitting in an overgrown garden that was mysteriously released afterwards? Are we okay with the number of politicians and public figures who took to social media to condemn the couple’s neighbours for reporting the incident to the police?
The big element in the Boris story isn’t that there was a heated argument, it’s that the police were called.— James Cleverly MP (@JamesCleverly) June 22, 2019
The police were called by the same person who recorded Boris and gave the story to the Guardian.
And that’s before we even get into Brexit. On the subject of which, Japan’s foreign minister has spoken out to warn Britain against pursuing no-deal. Oh, and did you see the open letter signed by 1,000 doctors and 40 professors which called on us all to take part in "nonviolent civil disobedience" because of the looming threat of an "environmental catastrophe" because they think our government’s policies are "woefully inadequate".
Hands up if you feel like the shrugging girl emoji.
It's only possible to sustain anger and outrage for so long before you become exhausted. Hands up if you feel like the shrugging girl emoji. Frustration is the word we keep hearing. It feels a bit like our country is a teenager, stuck in the last year of school. We know good things are probably around the corner but we’re in the middle of exam period, nobody has done any revision and we feel guilty if we go out and have fun. One way or another, we just want it to be over.
Frustration is the prevention of progress, success or fulfilment and, right now, that’s exactly what we’re all living through. People are upset and annoyed because they feel unable to change anything while our politicians seem equally unable to get anything done. If you want Brexit to happen, you’re frustrated because it’s not and if you voted against it, you’re frustrated because everything else is on hold until it does.
Tempting as it is to switch off and disengage, though, it’s more important than ever that we don’t. There is always something you can do because, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, you do have the power to influence the future. Think about the rise of movements like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion or the recent successes of campaign groups like Generation Rent and ask yourself which causes you want to champion. And if it’s not possible to take time out to physically protest, remember that you can do something as simple as email your MP. For all the bad press politicians get, it’s their job to listen to the people they represent and make sure they take it on board when they’re voting in the House of Commons. Even when things feel bleak, it's good to remember that as citizens we have more power than we realise. Let's use it.