For me the last couple weeks have been... extra. A major work deadline and a death in the family of someone I was close to on top of the Too Much that is just regular life now: the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, ceaseless attempts to legislate what people with a uterus can and cannot do with that organ (and the rest of their body). But I made it. I managed to get through without a total personal collapse. I couldn't keep up with absolutely everything, but somehow I held it more or less together. I even met the work deadline.
In large part my resilience is due to my incredibly supportive household and network of lovely friends, family, and chosen family. But I think there was also an element of lucky timing at play. The overwhelming confluence of events in my life were sufficiently spaced-out that I could still cope. The glue generally holding me together that is my personal Taiji/qigong practice was adequately replenished between occurrences so all my parts and pieces did not become totally unstuck.
The pleasantly surprising togetherness of my emotional state got me wondering if my tolerance is also up because of the state of the world we’ve all been living through. Which made me wonder if everyone else’s tragedy-o-meter has been recalibrated in a similar way. And I think it has. With so much going on all the time and inequity everywhere we look, I worry some folks (or a lot of people) will be less shocked into taking positive action to uproot the causes of injustice in the world. I worry we have normalized a new (higher) volume of tragedy as part of everyday life.
I remember watching the movie Gandhi in social studies class. In the movie, somebody close to Gandhi asks him how he planned to oust the British from India through only non-violent resistance. Gandhi replied that he didn't want to fight the British out of India. Instead, he wanted to shame them out. He wanted to walk into their beatings and abuse without fighting back until they became sufficiently disgusted by their own behavior to stop what they were doing. He apparently foresaw a point at which the enforcement of imperialism would become too much for the imperialists.
I think there is merit to that strategy. Shame can be a powerful motivator. But I also think it relies entirely on the assumption that the perpetrators of the injustice see the people they are abusing as human beings. Or that enough of the abuser's peers recognize the humanity of the suffering people so they can pressure the perpetrator into seeing their behavior as shameful.
We may be witnessing something like this phenomenon beginning to play-out in American politics, where some conservative lawmakers appear to have broken-ranks to oppose or prevent anti-LGBTQ legislation. It is possible that some of these laws are so egregious, even the conservatives can't stomach them. Possible the extreme actions many conservatives are taking in order to hold on to some semblance of power and control over the populous are forming cracks in the steadfastness of conservatism as an ideology. I hope so.
I hope so, but I don’t think so. Primarily because the last few years have clearly demonstrated conservatives, on the main, are not playing by the same rules as the people trying to take care of everybody else. Hell, they’re not even living in the same reality. They operate in a fictional universe they perpetuate through any means necessary in order to maintain their monopoly on power.
I know they see any threat to their hold on all that power as cause for great alarm. I have yet to see a humanitarian threat that causes them as much anxiety. I'm not sure I want to know what it will take to jar them into seeing that the way they move through the world hurts people. People are already dying from lack of access to food, shelter, and medicine in the Land of Plenty. The list of humans of color who have died at the hands of police abusing their power and position is many miles long. And none of this is new news. It's all quite well-known and extremely well documented. What more could it possibly take?
Shock and awe is not the only way to alert people to matters requiring their civic attention, but it sure is an effective method. The only good thing I can say about the outcome of the 2016 election is that the resulting President was so awful that a lot more people woke up to their responsibility to pay attention and participate in politics. People could see the effects of that travesty of a state-head on their daily lives and it was too much for some folks so they started doing something about it.
But as that drama dragged on unabated, it got harder and harder to muster up the same volume of indignation. One catastrophe of a decision was followed too closely by another, and another, and another. Eventually the shock and awe spectacle cycled through all the surprise points some folks had. And when you try to run on fumes, you eventually burn out.
So we can't rely on the inspiration of shock or indignation alone. Maybe we can't rely on it at all anymore. Maybe we never could. So where does that leave us? What options do we have now to spur people into action. How can I convince more people to care about the people around them? How can I convince more people to care about people they don't even know? Probably will never know. How can I convince more people to see other people as people?
I don't think most people are quite ready for that. Maybe I first need to concentrate on convincing more people to care about themselves. Not to think or act selfishly, but to truly care for themselves. To value and protect and consider their own humanity. To nurture their entire being. To participate in the real real of self-care. The challenging and rewarding work of undoing what society does to all of us and becoming more whole and healthy.
That certainly worked for me. The more complete I become by healing past traumas the easier it is for me to cultivate a more humanizing way of being in the world. The more completely I can see the humanity of other people, the more I can see that those other people are also my responsibility. Not that I am responsible to meet the needs of everyone else, but that it is my responsibility to make sure whatever I put out into the world contributes to an overall system through which everyone has opportunity and resources to get their needs met. It is vital that I am helping create a world in which other people can take care of themselves. If we're not all looking out for one another, this world is much too much to bear.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.