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Editorial: Love Against Fear

The world’s gotten kinda awful lately, huh?

The old rules we thought the world was playing by don’t seem to apply any longer. Entire countries are in ruins, sending refugees fleeing into lands full of people paralyzed by fear. Governments attack their own citizens without even attempt to apologize, police gun down Black and First Nations folk without reprecussions.

Entire political orders are changing, old agreements which kept nations from fighting each other shredded to placate xenophobic terror. Senseless attacks on defenseless people in the middle of celebrations or in the middle of sleep, perpetrated by people convinced the deaths of immigrants, or gays, or the disabled would make the world a better place.

Contentious elections bringing to the surface some horrible ideas have us reeling, while those who hold hateful views find themselves emboldened to speak without fear of others’ outrage. Churned up in the sudden free-for-all that’s gripped many societies, statements about race, or gender, or sexuality we thought had finally become artifacts of a less-enlightened past are now resurging with violent force, defended by those we were certain knew better.

Few of our leaders seem willing–or even able–to stem this tide. This shouldn’t surprise us, even as it disheartens us. When talk of angry Blacks or criminal immigrants, of perverted homosexuals or dangerous Muslims becomes the currency of popular fear, leaders are always quick to cash in. Some even sow these fears, eager to harvest the power we give them.

It seems we can no longer avoid what’s happening. Ignore the news and turn off your computer, but you’ll still hear the rumblings of such a storm in the cafes, at your jobs, in the bars or on the street. You can avoid all media and still find yourself finding out another Black man’s been murdered, another terror attack has occurred. It’s written on the faces of strangers, of friends, of neighbours, of lovers.

Beyond all the political events are the increasing storms, the heatwaves, the floods. The environment’s a wreck, and the unthinking machines we rely on can only churn out more carbon, not less. More species extinct, new species threatened, water crises, polluted air, while politicians and corporations argue whether people with darker skin than them are the cause of the world’s problems.

It’s enough to cripple us with fear, enough to paralyse our hearts, send us hiding into more distraction, weaken our resolve, lead us deep into despair.

But we must not fear.

It is fear which causes so much of this horror in the first place, fear of the other, fear of change, fear of uncertainty. Fear for our safety, fear for our security, fear that life might not always be easy, fear that others might make life hard.

When you live in fear, you will see enemies everywhere. You’ll see harm in each voiceless glance, danger in every indifferent stare.

When you live in fear, you’ll see enemies everywhere, and arm yourself against their imagined schemes. Colour of skin becomes the banner of a foe, foreign dress their uniforms of war.

When you live in fear, you become a combatant in a war you yourself declare. You’ll seek victory over imagined slights, summon armies to conquer those you decide have stolen your joy.

When you live in fear, you seek to become the fear of others. Unwilling to be brave, to stare unblinking into the Abyss of the soul, you spread the terror which keeps you awake at night, multiplying the shadows you cast which you refuse to call your own.

When you live in fear, you become fear, a void in the meaning of the world, a ghost of hunger starving out the light of others.

Only courage and love can stop this.

As the world seems to get worse, as more and more events make us question what we know of ourselves and each other, we need to find new ways of being, new ways of relating. When the official politics don’t work, we’ll need to find new ones. When minding our own business no longer keeps us safe, we’ll need to learn how to bridge our isolation. When people we hoped might lead us give in to the hatred and fear, we must learn to be our own leaders. When economies collapse and social systems fail, we’ll need to find new ways to support ourselves and support each other.

For all of this, we will need courage. We’ll need to be bold, unafraid what others might think, no longer worried we might fail. We’ll need to stop apologizing for the world we want to live in, and start building it.

Courage need not mean standing between a gun and a victim, but it might. Courage need not mean standing in the way of harm, but it might. Courage might not mean sitting in front of tanks, but it might. Courage might not mean physically disrupting the plans of the powerful, but it very well may.

Love-like courage–is rarely polite. Though love may sometimes mean gently talking bigotry and fear out of someone, it may also mean directly stopping the damage they do. Love might require only patiently listening to the fears of others, but it can also require strongly standing in the way of the actions their fear causes.

We’ll need both courage and love to steer through these storms, to find ourselves again upon ground where we are equal and safe, liberated and free.

Don’t be afraid.

Be brave.

Be love.


Rhyd Wildermuth

InstagramCapture_37ba565d-4170-4912-a207-ca5e5f5ddbf9Rhyd is the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He’s usually in a city by the Salish sea in occupied Duwamish territory, but he’s been trekking about Europe for the last two months, with more to go. His most recent book is A Kindness of Ravens, and you can follow his adventures at: PAGANARCH.


The first printing of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here has almost sold out!  Order the print–or digital–version here.

4 Comments »

  1. Yes, there is indeed a ‘gathering storm’ and I too have those moments of fear, of wondering if our species – in lieu of all the harm to other species – will make it and maybe even a dose of SHOULD we make it. There is no other choice, really. I can choose to ‘duck and cover’ or turn a blind eye to it all OR stand face first into the tidal wave approaching and decide to run towards the churning serf. Both end in endings…both equally unpleasant. But in choosing the later I am allowed to face that day with honor before the God/dess(es) of this Existence.

    Thanks as always for the reminder, Rhyd.

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  2. Fear doesn’t stop anything from happening. Often what harms us is not in the things we fear, but the things we were not afraid of. Fear stops nothing, but it uses up a lot of our energy and messes with our ability to note what is actually happening and think our way to a possible solution of how will we deal with this problem. Like our ancient ancestors we need to be fully aware to what is happening around us, to determine what things are real dangers that we should deal with, and which are dangers only to distract us from what we should be paying attention to. Never let anyone do your thinking for you, never let anyone tell you what to fear and what to believe in. Use your own mind , your own common sense, and your own experience. Use you gut feelings, if something feels right or wrong to you, it likely is. For your own sake become a fully activated human being.

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  3. First of all, I want to make it clear that I appreciate the thrust of what Rhyd has posted here. That said, I want to spotlight something that a youngster I know said quite awhile ago:

    “We are documenting, discussing, debating, demonstrating, diverting and delaying ourselves to death in lieu of doing something new in solidarity that stands to make a big enough difference in time.” — One of my home schooled students (calling attention to the collective deadlines we face respecting our collective crises).

    In fact, we are making general comments here. There’s no need to argue with anything said. However, it’s talk that we’ve all heard before, yes? Courage and Love, yes, must be two of the ingredients for our action in the future, our stance right now. But what of action? We need specific action to be recommended now, and — ideally — it should be action which follows a fresh paradigm.

    Tomorrow I expect an interview with me to be posted at God & Radicals. In that exchange you will find some suggestions I have about how to proceed… in solidarity… in unprecedented action. I am not attached to my recommendations. What I am attached to, however, is discussion of viable options if my proposal for action does not resonate with the reader.

    And on that note, I’ll close for the night , trusting that some of you will set aside the necessary time to engage in the kind of in-depth back and forth that required to seriously entertain new models for movement in solidarity. The people here at Gods & Radicals are a promising group, and I eagerly look forward to communicating with you. But not on the run. Leisurely, so that we can explore all the nooks and crannies of my proposal for action, and consider alternative actions that stand to make a difference.

    Merci for your kind consideration,
    Ox

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