Wednesday, 9 November 2016

How to Emotionally survive Political Catastrophe

An Open post to those who feel lost right now:

I'm writing this on the morning of the third nasty political shock in eighteen months. Boy, the 2010s have been very unpleasant, haven't they? The forces of reactionary nastiness have been on the ascendent, indulged by the media and too many other enablers.

The English-speaking world seems to be quite happily flirting with what could be broadly termed fascism. However the voting patterns are rationalised, a rather ugly, isolating, destabilising general pattern emerges. I am very much afraid that we're sailing, rather merrily, for what the Great Transition Initiative called Fortress World. This is a world where: "powerful [nationalist] forces are able to impose order in the form of an authoritarian system of global apartheid with elites in protected enclaves and an impoverished majority outside."

I think that we should ask whether that sort of a world really sounds appealing, don't you?

The problem for those of us who do not want this sort of a world is how to survive and continue to do good and constructive work in a situation where an awful lot of social and political forces seem to be leading directly to it.

The internet is a wonderful thing, but I have been unable to find anything useful about how to survive, psychologically, multiple political disasters. And yet, if you look at history, there are many records of those who have not only survived but eventually learned how to thrive in their wake.

My personal inspiring example is the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, who had their country invaded and their culture destroyed. This lead to a diaspora of Tibetans around the world, including the Dalai Lama.

Instead of preaching hate and violence, the Dalai Lama embarked on a program of increasing compassion and cooperation in the world. So this is an example of someone who turned very adverse political circumstances into something positive. I encourage you to find your own.

On the days to come:

First, it goes without saying that extensive self-care and compassion is essential from now on. In addition, we need to work on increasing resilience and keeping ourselves in a proactive state so that this sort of disaster is not immobilising. Building community, and peer support,  is essential here.

A good first stop are the writings of Bruce Levine, who have been crucial for me in overcoming the paralysis that extreme demoralisation can bring. Many of you will be in shock now, and that's okay. Remember that the shock will wear off, and that you don't have to be immobilised permanently.

Second, try to take a longer perspective. In the 1930s, in a sadly comparable time of political turbulence and bad change, H.G. Wells wrote 'The Shape of Things to Come,' where he looked beyond the next World War to a time when a better society could be built. Although Wells, at the end of his life, despaired that a better life was possible, people were inspired by his example. In fact, many of the more positive ideas that he promoted were worked into global organisations like the United Nations, in the wake of the war.

This tells me two things (1) that even in very dark times, you can still plan for a better world, and (2) that the political landscape can change, radically, in a reasonably short period of time -- and not always for the worse. The issue is keeping more constructive ideas and values alive through the dark times, and to continue chipping away at your chosen issue no matter what.

Finally, I tend to agree with Alfred North Whitehead that evil is unstable.  Any regime, for example, that ignores climate change is due for some very nasty shocks further down the road. Any politician, however rich and powerful, who is foolish enough to ignore reality will sooner or later find themselves colliding with it.

So the mission is to keep the idea of a better world alive, until a more opportune time comes to put it into action. And sooner or later, that time will come.

Don't give up!

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