WATCH THIS

We live in a hold-my-beer world now, and that’s a scary thought

Hold my beer.

It’s a phrase one backyard-barbecue goer says to another, encapsulating a moment of supreme clarity of vision and outcome—just before his physical stunt goes cringingly wrong.

Lately, it’s also how social media joke-makers are describing public relations misfires. Pepsi started the recent spate with their tone-deaf advertisement trivializing Black Lives Matter. Hold my beer, said United Airlines, before they violently forced a customer off of a full flight, sending him to the hospital. No, hold my beer, the internet imagines Sean Spicer thinking, as he fatuously compared Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria to Adolf Hitler’s in Nazi Germany. That gets us to Tuesday.

This isn’t just the week of hold my beer. We now live in a hold-my-beer world. Is humanity becoming stupider? It may just be that our world is so much more connected. Boneheaded moments that would have faded into the ether a decade ago now course through the internet like heroin in a junkie’s veins. We’re desperate for another fix of schadenfreude to cackle or cluck over.

But when we ruefully shake our heads at every blunder, it becomes easy to lose sight of truly alarming developments. As tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, the world learned that US president Donald Trump realized the situation there was complicated only after a 10 minute history lecture from Chinese premier Xi Jinping. So, while Trump was preparing to ask someone (Sean Spicer, perhaps?) to hold his beer while he fixed Korea, Xi—leader of the US’s biggest regional rival—grabbed him by the arm and explained the epic faceplant he was about to inflict upon America.

The rumblings are North Korea may test a nuclear device today—possibly as you’re reading this email. US Navy vessels are in position nearby, but thanks to Trump’s doctrine of unpredictability, no one knows if their rules of engagement are preemptive, defensive, or retaliatory. Perhaps even the troops themselves are in the dark.

It’s not always possible to stop an unfolding disaster, but the world needs more arm-grabbing and less beer-holding. The freude (pleasure) we feel when watching someone fail isn’t worth it if the schaden (damage) blows back on us all.

Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search