A friend of mine has an often-used response when asked for an opinion on the latest “crisis de jour”. NMFP.
Not My (Flaming, or a similar F word) Problem.
It’s said to be the magic formula for a stress-free life.
Waddya think about Donald Trump? NMFP. Claims about additives in baby formula? NMFP. Whether kids should be freed from the tyranny of homework? NMFP. Should middle-aged men wear denim? NMFP.
I’ve tried this approach recently and it’s surprisingly difficult, especially for a bloke whose entire working life has been surrounded by words, ideas, challenging events, reports, opinions and politics.
I suspect it is a function of getting older, but I actively seek the freedom of not having to have an opinion on everything. And maybe it is also fuelled by the social media outrage industry where everyone seems to have a harsh snap opinion on everything.
Princess Kate smiles more on the left side of her face and the internet commentariat goes postal with the claim this is expressing a disregard for the left or the right. Malcolm Turnbull meets the Queen and treats her with the respect she deserves and suddenly people want to tear down him/her/both/Britain/John Kerr/all of the above.
Me? Well, NMFP. Even if I have an opinion (and mostly I do) it’s mine and I’ll save you all any angst by keeping it to myself or discussing it with friends and family over a good bottle of red after dinner.
This feels to me like liberation.
Especially after more than a decade of being a newspaper editor. Ask any of my predecessors and successors and they will tell you that – in circus terms – it’s life on the high wire. Everything you do or say, or don’t say, or should’ve said, or thought, or inferred, or muttered in a quiet pub corner to a close personal friend, is held up for examination and non-stop critiquing.
You live by your wits and your hopefully honed sense of logic and justice. But you are always wrong. Even when you’re right.
Now, I have to say that my editing years were just at the start of the social media scourge, and that since then, the high wire has got higher and the spotlight more searing, and I doubt I would have survived six months in the world as it is now.
In all seriousness, I suspect most of my ex-editor colleagues are suffering some degree of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many have difficulty building meaningful and sustainable lives after the bell rings and the call goes up: Next! And it’s to them that I recommend the NMFP method.
There are so many opinions and “isms” in the world today that the traditional editor’s task to inform and reform is infinitely more complicated.
But one day, you too will be able to watch the TV news and think to yourself: “Well, that’s just silly, but today, it’s NMFP.” And people will one day stop flinging instant venom your way because you had the temerity to try to get people to just get along.
One day, you will be able to walk down a supermarket aisle and when someone collars you and verbally abuses you because you wrote something they mildly disagreed with, you will be able to continue comparing the prices of packets of frozen vegies and think: NMFP.
One day, the world of Facebook, Twitter and similar vehicles of instant outrage, will become what they should always have been: pointless and mildly entertaining.
A bit like Donald Trump.