Divided, but determined
One side wins. One side loses. Our loved ones, family, and some of our dearest friends are going to be in mourning. Or in rage. What can be done to reconcile people when they see one another as existential enemies?
For the last few years our lives have been tested. A sort of warm up for increasing hardship has been on offer. Perhaps, this beginning of the age of plagues, floods, fires, and displacement can better prepare us. But for any true preparation, we have to ally.
Many who study epidemiology and climate expect horrors ahead. The challenges that lay ahead as more pandemics, and the climate crisis wreak havoc, could well wring hope out of a distressed world. How we treat one another will make us or break us.
Let’s choose “make us”. How do we get there? The refugee crisis alone creates distrust, hatred, and even violence. The weakest among us will always choose to find a scapegoat to blame. The strongest among us will seek to find common ground with those we need to learn to trust again.
Saying I love you
We have to say I love you. More. Even to those people we fervently disagree with about hot button issues. My family of origin was evenly split between cowboys and authoritarians growing up beside hippies and free spirits. Each of us jostled for voice, equality, and progress. Feminism, militarism, and access to resources — like money — causes conflicts. Race, space, and place were always in debate.
Some of us have no patience left for B.S. That’s okay. Go outside and find a place to express all of that pent-up rage and grief. Let it all out for however long it takes. Afterwards, take a few cleansing breaths and thank the trees for providing your life through breath exchange. A good lesson to take in is that although we have burned billions and billions of trees, the army of them left is providing us with life, not killing us in revenge.
Nature teaches lessons like this and we need them. Connect with all of which you are a part. It teaches us our belonging.
Then come back inside, knowing that you have to live with others of every kind and species. Some, especially people, will frequently disagree with you. In my family, we learned to sometimes call out offensive words and deeds, but carefully. Before lashing out, or speaking defensively, identify which thing you need most from another; hint, it’s almost always to be considered equal, not less than. Check with your rage-o-meter first so that you don’t say something you can’t take back.
Our psychological defenses are strong. Our natural inclination will be to say “I love you but you are wrong. I love you but you are crazy…”
Say, “I love you and…” not “I love you, but.” Say, for example, “I love you and I want us to help one another. I love you and I want us to find our common goals. I love you and I want us to support, and be grateful for each other.”
This is not an easy way to speak, but a courageous and trust creating way. Almost any variation of “I love you, but” is fraught with peril. Don’t say everything that you feel (save that for your nature immersion therapy) but say anything that connects with another’s basic humanity. It’s not always easy, but know that your hard work in saying “I love you and,” will pay much richer dividends than “I love you, but…”
Although this does require discipline it does not require duplicity. You can always clarify what you disagree with without making personal attacks. It just takes a big brain, and a bigger heart.
You have more in common with your peers than you know. We always see the flaws before we see the beauty in another. It takes real and genuine interest to try to find our common ground. People may disagree about wealth distribution, for example, but learn to appreciate that all of us together do not have the wealth and privilege we give away to the super rich.
2020 was the first year of the first big plague in recent times. We need one another to find the strength and support to give up herd mentality and embrace herd immunity. Our herd immunity will need to stretch to cover our basic humanity when fire, flood, refugee, or other crises emerge.
No more doom and gloom
One problem with living in the “End times” is resignation. Do not resign yourself to despair. Instead, embrace the power and love of our humanity.
Of course, acknowledging reality is necessary in order to ally against our many challenges. Far from being a doom and gloom scenario, those who use science and sense to face reality are the world’s greatest optimists. Green jobs are a positive. Green food ways and cultural diversity sharing are a positive. Having a healthier goal for clean air, water, health, and food should not be looked at as glass half contaminated, but as a glass half full of life-giving water.
Some people think that the cost of our bail outs will be too high. But the cost of doing nothing is already being seen as catastrophic. Think of what we would save by giving up racism and sexism, for example. Think of the human resources we can muster. Think of the minds, hands, and innovations we can share.
When people tell you “They” are trying to take away your “way of life,” or “your freedom of choice” be skeptical. Remember that the greatest good is to give. Realize that every good and noble story since the beginning of time comes with a lesson about being useful and good, not selfish, or isolationist. Use clichés if you must: “Use the force,” “The good in this world is worth fighting for.” “Greatness is where there is simplicity, goodness, and truth.” “Judge not lest you be judged.” And “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike.” Read a book or watch a movie, and you will find these messages confirmed.
Better yet, find a bird singing, and listen to the song. Not all of the birds have fallen out of the sky. Find ways to cherish and protect them, too.
We need belonging, we need love
Black Lives Matter shook up the summer. It was long overdue. Political differences keep us in dangerous bubbles where we can’t feel one another’s pain. Blue states on fire, gulf states under water, and East coast states bracing for an election mess like no other are on edge.
Yet, there is no one among us who does not require belonging. We need love. We need one another to have even the possibility of creating a stronger world.
Let he or she that is without connection to others step forward and show the buttons they hand made on their shirts, the food they grew and cooked alone, the roads they alone forged, the words and wisdom they came up with individually, or the home they made on their own.
Of course, in the age of the global village we are not ever alone. Our lifeblood flows through many hearts.
The heart of teaching in Ecopsychology is belonging. We are just a mere speck in space, but everyone on this planet belongs or perishes. We need that lesson to hold on to our integral belonging.
When words fail Give: food, resources, time, and attention. Give.
Rejection requires courage
If someone ever makes you feel “less than,” Say, “I love you AND I provide benefits that are completely priceless and unique — as do you.” Each of us may be a snowflake, but a mountain full of snowflakes is a sky transformed into water. It is what becomes your produce, cows, wine and culture.
You and everyone else face rejection and non-belonging. You may often have to be the one who finds the courage to step up and offer reconciliation. If you need time for recovery after the election, take that time. Then, get busy.
Our only mutual home
One thing to do is to notice the boat. If spaceship Earth is in distress, we need all hands-on deck. Earth is suffering, and when Earth burns, floods, or loses her thin layer we so casually call “Life,” each of us is in danger of loss.
The most difficult thing about this suffering is that it is unequal.
Climate justice is finally seen to be a genuine need. Those who emit the least waste product into our environment pay the highest price. One way to recognize when someone is demanding more than their share is if they protest paying the cost of their consumptive or polluting ways. If air or water quality is hazardous or contaminated in one place, look at who is hoarding clean water and cleaner environments at their place. Scapegoating entire nations, such as when we say, but “China and India won’t stop their trashy ways” is one way we shun our personal responsibility. We are more powerful when we say “Well, we are going to do the right thing no matter what others do.” This is a more powerful statement with much better potential for success.
These days, we often read about the apocalypse and our lost democracy. The world, is, in fact, what we make it to be. I also get chagrined when I read “Earth will go on just fine — it is our species that is in trouble.”
Our civilization is in trouble, but many civilizations always have been. Our species, however, is not likely to go extinct. This thinking, to my mind, anyway, is exactly backwards. Worry about the catastrophic decline of oceans, wildlife, and pollinators, but don’t waste time wondering how humanity ends.
We simply outnumber all other beings and dominate everywhere. That is our problem.
Earth has had more years of non-life than life, it’s true. But it’s not desirable. And, as to our human existential threat, we’re unlikely to go extinct. We humans outnumber everyone (save insects), and although yes, pandemics and climate crises will kill, they are unlikely to kill a species outnumbering everyone else by billions and billions.
Quality of life, the kind for which we evolved, however, is under threat. All diversity, and biodiversity makes life glorious. Lack of it makes life miserable. Choose.
Your personal story
You have loved ones. They need you right now to be as strong and courageous as you can to rejoin an alliance to save all that is worth saving.
In the aftermath of the election, there will be natural instincts to abandon others to hatred, anger, xenophobia, racism and sexism. But we are complex beings and can feel one way and act another. Our acts of kindness will be what matters most.
In these deeply divided times, we need to swallow some of our pride and embrace one another. It is not easy. Most things worth doing are not easy, simple, or straightforward.
They are just necessary.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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