Yes, I know it’s silly, but…several days ago, a notable and lauded progressive blogger put up a post that began to chafe my hide more over the next few days. The author first described the world as always having been both horrid (he’d used a more scatalogical term) and beautiful. He’d first chronicled his take on disturbing and worrying current events in the US and world, then named a few political good signs like ‘neoliberalism on its way out.
Following that came mention of what the immediate future portends, both climate change, the likelihood of food and water shortages, and what the Queen of Chaos’s election will augur, then mentions of the historical hellscapes of war, the Depression, Khmer Rouge genocides, famines, etc.
But it was all as a prelude to this:
“But why despair?
Even in bad times, there will be good. Most of history has been bad, but people have still loved, they have still enjoyed food, and the beauty nature so generously provides. There has always been wine (or bathtub gin). Life has gone on.
It’ll probably go on this time, and if we manage to drive ourselves to extinction (still unlikely) well, no humans will be suffering any more.
Enjoy your lives as best you can. Take joy in the real things of your immediate lives. The horrors that are happening to others are not happening to you and making yourself unhappy because others are unhappy does nothing to help them, and harms you.
That doesn’t mean “do nothing,” it means do what you’re reasonably able to do, and don’t sweat the rest. There are billions of people on Earth, you aren’t personally responsible for this, and your contribution is not going to be the key if other people don’t also get off their asses.
Be realistic, accept no more than your tiny bit of blame, and then go eat a good meal, make love, and listen to some beautiful music.
Don’t destroy your real happiness over events for which you are almost entirely not responsible, and which you do not have the power to change.”
I confess that I was most sincerely taken aback, first by the notion that those of us who are sensitive to the horrors others are experience are choosing to make ourselves ‘unhappy’, not just finding ourselves heavy-hearted in spite of trying to make community, enjoying the natural world, and listening to music, etc. I also question whether ‘real happiness’ is a laudable goal (apologies to the Dalai Lama). I’m going to go with Arundhati’s formula at the bottom, at least aspirationally…and add: live life to the fullest, kick the hell outta it as you try to make it better.
Admittedly, during the first Gulf War’s shock-and-awe, ‘turning the desert to glass’, I felt as though I could hear every bomb, and fell into a deep depression for the first time in my life. Later, author Barbara Kingsolver recounted that she and her family had moved to Spain to try to get away from her own similar depression. What she later divined post-depression was that her excessive despondency was rather self-indulgent, which lesson I’ve tried to incorporate into my psyche. And yes, some folks can intellectualize or compartmentalize their caring and solidarity without so much angst, as with the Briggs/Myer personality profiles. ;-)
But it also struck me as a very privileged place to be, with the ‘still loved, enjoyed food, wine and nature’. As to our not being to blame but a wee bit, that’s up for grabs as far as I’m concerned, depending on who the ‘we’ is, but collectively, I fear we are to blame. As Keegan Stephan and others remind us often: while we may pay homage to the fact that many of us live in privilege, those realizations hardly dent the surface compared to those living without any.
But what came to mind was not just the people in this nation and around the world slowly dying of totally needless, but increasing oppression and immiseration, but for how many it’s always been this way. So many simply struggle to survive, or try to help their families and friends to survive. Not just the poor and colonized, neo-colonized, but those living in apartheid states for instance, or by dint of being the wrong sect of a religion, or the wrong color and class, or even the wrong gender.
Hearing the many admonitions for ‘calm and peace’ from some faith leaders and El Presidente caused me to muse about the utter necessity of our shared-by-osmosis pain as well as outrage, staying angry, and pushing back against those who rule us without conscience, with extreme brutality, and the theft of not just our labors, but ourselves as well. That’s what will bring change one day, imo, when a preponderance of us wake up to the truths that Martin Luther King and other sages and poets have tried to instill within us: we are one humanity, and the divisions have been artificially created by those who would rule us; we must be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
‘We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’
~ Martin Luther King
“No hour is ever eternity, but it has its right to weep.”
~ Zora Neale Hurston
“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men – above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”
~ Albert Einstein
When Michael Franti returned from his quest to Israel, Palestine, and Iraq to discover what war really is, he wrote this song; the lyrics clearly indicate that he was at least considering ending his life.
‘And tell me why I need to know
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to know all you’ve shown me
‘Hey world, what you say
Should I stick around for another day or two?
Don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on you
Just believe in me, like I believe in you…’
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
~ Arundhati Roy