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At first, I thought it was the recycled air of the airport, but when I stepped outside of Saint-Paul International Airport, the air was definitely different here in Minnesota. While taking my extended stay in a small town away from the bustle of Minneapolis, I was greeted with the same warmth and disconnect from global affairs that I have experienced in small towns in Canada. Rural, not only in distance, but in concerns, usually results in the upper-middle-class cosmopolitan citizen retreating to their hotel for the evening on their first night.

On my walks and on my several stops in cafes and bars, another aspect of rural Minnesotan life was refreshing. This was the term “I don’t know” being used for global events. This being either the atrocities occurring in Eastern Europe, and more recently, in the Middle East.

Back in the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, I had encountered a few tactics to how people coped with the onslaught of depressing and horrifying news. The first camp is usually occupied by those who shut down and stopped paying attention. Some in this camp are emotionally depleted, and they flee any conversation that concerns human rights atrocities. They resort to the media coverage of the largest superstar of the moment, her outfits, and which NFL player they may or not be dating as their escape.

However harmless those who occupy this campsite are, their neighbours just a few tents over do pose a danger. These people also resort to putting up their blinders when it comes to getting news from credible sources. But, unlike their neighbours across the campfire who get all of their gossip and celebrity news from social media (usually Facebook), they lay as prey to META and other platform’s algorithms for alternative and non-fact-based sources.

It was within interacting with this subset of people that I found the disturbing trend of growing apathy towards “others” since the pandemic – others, being anyone outside of their immediate socio-demographic and racial background. If a group deemed as “other” was suffering, they would turn towards these non-fact-based sources from social media and YouTube and offer disturbing fictional justifications for atrocities. Over the last year and a half, I have heard numerous made-up rationales for slaughtering civilians by nation-states.

This does have an impact on everyone, even those who bother to keep up with the news and who challenge and question the sources upon which they are presented. There is a growing sense of fatigue, and I and many whom I speak to are resorting to shorthands and simply discounting information that is brought to us. This is bad. We are coming close to falling into the same behavioural patterns of those we criticize. We are starting to rely only on the few sources of information that we rely upon, and this could lead to us having a distorted view of the world. If the reliable sources we have been relying on slowly become unreliable or, worse, fraudulent, so will our views and actions.

I fear that we are exiting the “Era of the Multi-Crisis,” which occurred during the pandemic and entering an “Era of Antipathy.” The constant strain and exhaustion that we all faced from March 2020 to the Autumn of 2023 is causing many of us to shut off and to stop caring. Instead of also shutting off and only resorting to the same sources of news and becoming lazy, I do have a solution which has worked for me, and you most certainly will not like it.

Instead of disengaging from reality, which causes less understanding, leading to divesting in humanity, since the global financial crisis of 2008, I have expanded my efforts in exercising my empathy muscles. Currently, I am reading the masterpiece A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Coming off reading Invisible Girl by Andrea Elliot, this title is also not the easiest of reads for those who turn towards books in their downtime as a source of entertainment. But, Ms. Yanagihara’s title explores relationships, trauma, and mental health with such a beautiful pen that its explorations of the struggles of others, even those who are fictional, has helped me have a level head and to keep my emotions out of the news.

Furthermore, we must expand our sources and increase our fact-checking. This may be exhausting at first, but it will soon become as routine as reading your morning paper. This week alone, many sites and media posts were fact-checked, revealing just how much false information is out there, and the act of fact-checking itself better arms you and your media literacy – over time, resulting in less fatigue and disappointment.

Like with all matters of endurance, whether be physical or mental health, we must put in our reps to increase our strength and ability to endure over the long haul.

The Dutch Admiral and Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, Rob Bauer recently said regarding aid to an Eastern European country which was invaded last year as “the bottom of the barrel is now visible.” I am starting to see the bottom of the barrel of the empathy of those around me. This is not only disturbing but terrifying. Acts such as road rage (a major issue in Toronto, where I reside) going up are a direct result of us dehumanizing others in their rolling steel cages.

We must make the extra effort to invest in our ability to empathize with others. If we do not make these efforts, it may result in all of us eventually placing our self-appointed and justified boots on someone else’s throat.

Who do you want to be after this era of antipathy passes, and will you be comfortable looking in the mirror of who you will become?


Time of writing, October 12th, 2023, 10:10AM CT