Too Much to Worry About
My 19yo son said to me the other day, “Mum, there are too many things going on in the world that I’m supposed to worry about, and I just can’t worry about them all!” And isn’t that the truth!
I’ve got two teenagers who’re concerned to have a world view, who’re upset about bullshit politicians, the widening gap between the mega-rich and the very poor, and dead babies washing up on beaches, and they can’t get their heads round it all.
And I don’t think it’s just young people that are struggling with this. A couple of days ago I posted the photo the world has now seen many times of 3yo Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, dead and washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean. I read about the photographer’s dilemma in posting such an upsetting photograph, and how he finally decided that maybe, just maybe, it would change a few hard-hearted politicians’ minds. And seemingly it did, although like many New Zealanders I remain aghast at how ‘troubled’ our own prime minister has been about whether or not to send bombers to Syria while remaining steadfast at refusing any increase in the number of refugees our country will receive. Go figure.
It’s a hard time for us bleeding heart liberals! And it’s very easy to get angry about it. The absolute greed and the absolute lack of integrity and the absolute lack of simple intelligence – oh boy, don’t get me started…
On top of that, when we do express our sadness, our concern, our horror and disgust at the sight of refugees turned away, we can endure a seeming lack of warmth from even our closest friends. When I posted Aylan’s photo the other day, at least half a dozen people called me disgusting for having done so – me! Not the politicians, not President Assad, not ISIS, not even those western nations who caused these horrors – me, for trying to bring this tragedy to light just a little more. Well, it was water off a duck’s back; I deleted their comments and removed them from my page. (I’m very quick to do that these days; I’ve no patience for such negativity.) Another facebook friend declared she was removing herself from social media until Aylan’s photo wasn’t around anymore because she didn’t want to see it and she didn’t want her children (who’re not so young) seeing it, and all I could think was that she wanted to live under a rock and pretend the world and so many of its people weren’t in such distress.
And this is where a huge proportion of the population is ‘at’: either, “leave me alone, I don’t need to see this” or “I’m overwhelmed by this hurt and suffering, how do I live with this?” – both of them manifestations of the horrors and frustrations of our times. And the one is frustrated by the other.
Here’s what I believe and what I know.
That shit is all there and you can’t (and you shouldn’t) hide from it, or otherwise pretend it’s not there and that it will go away. Aylan Kurdi’s tiny body won’t be in our faces for long, but it will be replaced by other similarly distressing photos; and if there aren’t any of those kinds of distressing photos at any given moment then the media will give us the latest outrageous comment from Donald Trump to upset us instead.
Now, more than ever, is the time when we have to figure out and really live the saying “Be the Change you wish to see in the World” (Gandhi). My outrage, justified or not, doesn’t help the world. I may feel better for expressing it (probably I won’t though), but in fact all I’m doing is putting negative emotion into an already fraught situation.
I believe what I say and what I do has an effect on those around me, and the more of what I say and do is good, positive, filled with love and compassion, then the more I can, in fact, move the World. I’m not in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions about rescuing refugees on boats in the Mediterranean, and my focus on myself and what I put into the world is not about ignoring the very real plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced people. I can still write to my politicians, protest, donate, all those things… Those are good and positive, but my outrage – to the extent that that is about expressing strong angry emotion – that does nothing of value.
I don’t want to hide the tragic realities of a crazy world from my mature and caring teenagers. I want them to have a real view of the world, and hopefully also contribute what they can in their lives to improving the world. But I also want them to learn how to turn their angst into a positive force, not just for their own sanity, but for the sake of the World and the energies we put into it.
There is a middle path between, on the one hand ignoring World strife, and on the other hand suffering from one’s own anger and powerlessness in the face of it. That path is 1) to accept – not ‘accept’ in the sense of saying it’s okay (it’s sure as hell not okay!), but ‘accept’ that this is reality – this is what’s happening in the world. 2) Do what you can: petition politicians, donate, protest, etc. And 3) Be the change. Be better. Be responsible for the positivity, or not, that you put into the world, knowing that that in itself is a contribution, good or bad, to a horrendous situation.
This, I believe, is the most human, the most adult, and the most right response.