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.
Rhyd 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.
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