10 Thoughts and A Poem (For times of crisis and political despair)

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General thoughts if you didn’t vote for the people who are now in charge of the professional political power structures that govern you, when it is also pretty clear they don’t care about how many people get harmed or killed in their pursuit of the economic- or power-grabbing interests of the privileged few:

1. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel like you can’t do anything, like it’s all gone to hell. If this is the case, you are losing sight of yourself, and of your place in the world. Sometimes people influence us to do that. Sometimes we do that ourselves. Either way, bring it all back home. You are sufficient, more than sufficient. Everything you need to be strong and courageous has always been available to you. Remember where you are. Who you’re with. What you love. Who you love. Where you love. The anthem of resilience is the beating of the human heart.

2. Trust the way things run against your grain. Resistance is first and foremost a physiological reaction. Anger is often a helpful response to extreme conditions.

3. Anger as a response to conditions doesn’t last. If you are staying angry, you’re generating that yourself, and that’s not healthy.

4. The worst administrations thrive on hype. Totalizing hype. If you allow yourself to believe that they have totally saturated your life with hate and bile and doubletalk, then they have convinced you of the power that they aspire to but can never have. Step away from their hype, step away from the hype that gets generated in opposition to their hype.

5. Be wary of the way your language may have changed as you get drawn into the whirlpool. The way this crap works is that, as the intensity and toxicity rises, all will feel drawn to battle at the altar of pro and con, for and anti. This tends to escalate language to stereotype, at best, and gross misrepresentation based on dehumanisation, racism, and hate, at worst. Don’t become what you despise through despising.

6. They is us. They are all human beings. If I deny them humanity, whether through caricature, mockery, unspoken assumption or explicit declaration, then they have won more than a political victory. At this point, they have made me complicit in the co-optation of my soul and the displacement of vital aspects of my own humanity. If I radically separate myself from them I grossly misrepresent our shared humanity. I also make it impossible for myself to:

  • imagine how the quality of your relationship with them might ever  be helpfully changed by them or by me;

accept that some of the worst I identify in them could sometimes just as easily be identified in me in some form. Assuming that I am on the Side of the Angels doesn’t give me a free pass.

7. Damage limitation is important. Make transparent your resistance. Speak out. Organise. But never make that most of what you do. Do not allow resistance to dominate your life, because that is when what you oppose becomes the most important thing in your life. And you didn’t want that, did you? They did, though.

8. Self-care comes first. That includes health, family, friends, community, work. Wherever you happen to be, nourishing the best that humanity has to offer in nurturing, loving, enhancing, is the most vital, effective, helpful resistance you can ever sustain for the long term. Enhance your life so that the lives of others may also be enhanced. Make joyful, loving humanity most of what you aspire to.

9. Proximity. Fear, anger, dismay and despair draw us out of our lives. Imagining worst case scenarios or smiley utopias will do the same. Keep it real. Respond to what’s in front of you, beside you, behind you, above you, below you. Stay where you are. It’s the only place you’re always going to be. It is your place of being-in-the-world and being-of-the-world. Make it your home.

10. The gentle aspects of humanity can helpfully change the world, but they take much longer and aren’t as visible or as flashy as the short-term, noisy bluster of pomp and circumstance. The faster change happens, the less likely it is to be helpful in the long term. Patience. Healing takes time. Rush it and it becomes less than healing. Be strategic when required, but don’t let that become you. Trust in ordinary. Trust in smiles, in laughter, in the pleasures of good company. Trust that humanity doesn’t have to beat inhumanity to be humanity. Humanity isn’t going anywhere. Just give it room, and start where you are.

I think of it like living with chronic illness (this isn’t a random thought – my wife lives with chronic illness and I’m her carer). It’s not a nightmare, it’s life. Often energy-sucking, bloody difficult, painful life. But it only makes it more difficult if we think of it as a constant battle. it’s not a constant battle. It’s an occasional battle, maybe even a frequent battle. But it’s everyday, ordinary, mundane, even in the  battle.

We do violence to ourselves in the face of pain, suffering, and challenge if we succumb to language and metaphors that make us powerless to respond – nightmares happen to us, we become victims. We’re not victims. We’re strong, somewhere in there, always. And we can speak from that place of ordinary strength, because it never leaves us. And it’s there in the people we love. Always. And we have the daily opportunity to support them (and ourselves) in their strength and their pain. Sometimes at the same time.

We cannot allow ourselves to become swamped with thoughts and fears about the worst that humanity has to offer. Joe Hill. Joe Hill. We cannot drape ourselves in pain and despair. It doesn’t suit us to wear such ill-fitting clothing if we also say we live in hope. Not waiting for hope. IN hope. Now. Here. Today. If despair is hanging around, if hopelessness is hanging around, then I’ve been feeding it hot chocolate and cookies. I do that sometimes, but I’d generally rather not.

Someone has suggested that I am advocating ‘moving on from anger’ and that this might be a way of normalizing what we need to not normalize. I don’t mean it in that way. I simply mean that anger has a natural arc of intensity when we encounter a situation that we experience anger in. Anger, like any intense emotional response, naturally de-escalates over time. To maintain the intensity of anger (or any intense emotion) beyond it’s own arc of intensity we need to feed it with thoughts and/or language that are not immediately responsive to the particular situation, and are often pre-packaged from our own or another’s past experience.

The flipside of that is that maintaining the intensity of anger or despair with the aid of inner resources tends to diminish our responsiveness to immediate conditions as they unfold. We become less (not more) power-active. Less response-able. And less able to gauge what may or may not be helpful.

Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. Trust that it is a powerful, powerful form of politics.

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