Now for my topic du jour:
In the UK, there seems to be a lot of despair and resignation about currently. I think that a lot of this has to do with the considerable economic pressure that most of us are experiencing, along with a loss of faith that the situation will ever improve.
In some ways it seems like a meaningful future has vanished, or been stolen. (Johan Hari has recently suggested, accurately I think, that the loss of a sense of the future is a key component to depression).
Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked whether there was anyone out there who was not depressed because they were out of work or below minimum wage or otherwise massively overworked doing a job that was slowly killing them.
This captures a general mood of apathy and resignation in the UK. To be blunt, it seems at times like Michael Moore was right when he suggested the English, specifically, have 'given up.' And quite honestly if I hear the phrase 'it is what it is' once more I'm really going to get quite cross.
Well, I sympathise with all this. It seems to me that many of these feelings come not from the current situation that people find themselves in but from the belief that it will never change or could never be improved. 'It is what it is' and you just have to accept things, no matter how sh***y they may be.
The problem is that long term fear, stress, anger, exhaustion etc. locks you in 'survival mode.' This is when your focus is narrowed and you only see the crisis in front of you. All sense of the future becomes lost.
Therefore it seems to me crucial to resist (1) resignation (2) hopelessness and most of all (3) the sense that you, an individual are powerless. Looking after yourself and maintaining morale is a political act and an important one. See Hillary Rettig's great post for more on this.
I also recommend Bruce Levine's book on depression. Bruce talks a lot about morale, and thinks that many cases of depression are actually extreme forms of learned helplessness and despair. A necessary first step in alleviating depression is therefore to focus on lifting morale.
I'm going to be blunt here. I'm basically a critical utopian. My agenda, my wish, is for a future that's radically better than the present we find ourselves in. I want a planet that's rewilded and extensively ecologically restored. I want poverty and deprivation to be gone. I want compassion and kindness to become the hallmark of our civilisation instead of venality, exploitation and mendacity. I want a democratic workplace, rebuilt communities and, God damn it, contact with aliens would be pretty fine too.
All this means basically saying screw you to the currently prevailing wisdom/mood in this country. I refuse resignation. I refuse powerlessness. I refuse despair. I especially refuse those who would bully, deceive and coerce whole populations for their own selfish ends. Those people have no right to anyone's attention or respect.
Yesterday, I came across this fabulous Kim Stanley Robinson quote that seems appropriate:
....the optimism that I’m trying to express [in my novel 2140] is that there won’t be an apocalypse, there will be a disaster. But after the disaster comes the next world on.
Maybe optimism is a kind of moral imperative, you have to stay optimistic because otherwise you’re just a wanker that’s taken off into your own private Idaho of “Oh well, things are bad.” It’s so easy to be cynical; it’s so easy to be pessimistic. I like to beat on to people a little bit about this.
Quote from this interview.
Stan is of course perfectly right. The choice is between (1) cocooning oneself in despair or (2) saying stuff it and getting together with others to build a better world. To finish, here's Stan's Bioneers talk, which seems suitably inspiring for the Vernal Equinox. Enjoy, and I hope to see some of you at Eastercon!