(If anyone can get the Green Day reference in the title, ten points to Hufflepuff.)
So I write this whilst nursing a tea on the morning a man famous for being a low-rent orange Alan Sugar and taking the world’s worst Stone Cold Stunner, as well as being the most atrocious human being in general, takes up office as President of the United States. No, I’m still not cool with it, I never will be, and neither should you. Any fanatics claiming I’m some ‘triggered’ ‘libtard’ who needs a ‘safe space’ – hey, at least my safe space has tea and a strong intolerance for hatred and stupidity, so I think I win.
The last year or so in general for many people, particularly my generation, has lurched from depressing to terrifying via intermediate stops at tragic and hopeless like the worst Circle Line journey you’ve ever had. And as you can tell, I’m not particularly happy about all this.
When older folks tell me that ‘your generation will thank us for voting how we did’, you’ll forgive me if I struggle to be optimistic.
Now, this blog was not started to be an overtly political platform. However I feel the need to speak about this given that immersing myself in politics, particularly as of right now, is a sure road to a mental crash or anxiety attack. And here we have the crux of today’s post – I find myself at a bit of a quandry.
Growing up a punk rock kid meant that yeah, questioning of authority and social issues was something I was no stranger to being exposed to, and I’ve always tried in small ways to stay politically knowledgeable, if not always active. And right now, I feel like being politically active, dissenting and using whatever voice and platforms I have are downright mandatory. But on the flipside, my mental health and happiness have generally been far better the less I’m engaged with politics. There’s a direct correlation between the amount politics is involved in my life and my levels of joy in the world.
So does this mean I engage directly for the next four years, or however long the Brexit mess stretches out for, and hit constant walls of plunging dread? Or do I disengage and live my own life, free of influence but not using the voice I have? It is something I’ve been struggling with lately, and I want to hear your thoughts.
Personally? The contrasting approaches to the ruling classes in the legendary novel 1984 by George Orwell has always stuck with me. The two main protagonists have very different approaches: Winston wants to take direct action against a seemingly unstoppable machine, whilst Julia does not actively fight back, moreover, she lives a life of freedom and adventure outside of the control and restrictions of The Party. For Winston, the political machine is an enemy that must be stopped for the good of all; for Julia, her own happiness and freedom is in itself the biggest political dissenting act possible. That’s how I interpreted it anyway when I first read it – I might well go back for a second read.
Regardless, I’ve always been far more of a Julia than a Winston. And perhaps going forward, it’s a mix of both dependent entirely on our personal outlooks that will forge the way forward. One great thing to come out of last year for me was exposure to more excellent voices and figures representing an alternative to the rising hate; people like Van Jones and Shaun King, movements like Stop Funding Hate, the ACLU, Bridges Not Walls and Sleeping Giants, all of which don’t pull any punches in calling how awful the world could potentially be and already is but do so with a positive message of protest and change.
I’m not about just sitting here in the foetal position for the next four years waiting for the hammer to fall – if the world is fucked up, I want to know how to make it slightly less so. Hope remains a thing with feathers at all times.
Conversely, I’ve heard many remark about self-care being a political act in itself. And I’d like to do more reading on it. Because isn’t there something inherently powerful in triumphing in life, achieving your goals, and living a happy life no matter what barbed wire roadblocks others put in your way? So today, if the world is a bit too terrifying, don’t feel selfish for pulling yourself away from that space. In many ways, not engaging with hate is just as powerful as standing up and calling it out, because you’re still not falling victim to it and weakening its power as a result. I pledged in my Quarter Life Manifesto to be less reactionary going forward; use my energy less to lash out and shout at things online out of my control, and more to create and contribute something positive in its place. And as long as I’m comfortable knowing that doing so isn’t to abdicate responsibility needed more than ever, it’s time to get cracking.
How are you approaching political engagement going forward? Who are your favourite bloggers, figures and organisations gunning for hope and change? Drop them in the comments, and tweet me your favourite readings on self-care as a political act to me on Twitter @AJV1BETA. Keep in mind all the time; the future is unwritten, and one should never feel like anyone is forcing you to write it a certain way.