As I begin this blog at the end of 2016, Britain and America reel in the aftermath of two of the most divisive public votes to ever be held, one of which resulted in the shock assassination of someone who was, by all accounts, of the UK’s finest MPs; there are fears of the collapse of a long-held peace and a fascist resurgence in Europe; innocent Muslims are targeted and persecuted in multiple countries; mass shootings peak and the murder of black civilians continues in the US; the Republic of Yemen disintegrates; there is indiscriminate slaughter and devastation on the streets of Aleppo, against which no one will take action for fear of inciting World War III; Russia continues to threaten Ukraine; and globally, we face what must be the greatest refugee crisis to have ever occurred in human history.
And this is just the stuff we get to hear about, the stories that aren’t drowned out in the endless sound and fury. Every tomorrow comes with more harrowing news, just as you think it can’t get any worse.
I’m getting this out of my system now because I want you to understand that if your heart is breaking, you are not alone. But I promise you, this is the first and last time that this blog is going to dwell on the numerous inconceivable horrors in our world. When lurid headlines scream doom and destruction to us daily while proposing no means of averting the inevitable apocalypse, it makes us hopeless, and it makes us ill.
“What can I do about it?” is a question a lot of us are asking, and it’s one I asked myself in a facebook post a little under a month ago. But there’s a problem with this question. When we think about ourselves as individuals up against a merciless tide of misery, we quickly become too overwhelmed to do anything. And when prevailing political and cultural discourse has been dominated by a cult of individualism since before many of us were even born (“There is no such thing as society”), it’s hard to know how else to understand our place in the world.
This blog was originally going to be called whatcanido.wordpress.com, but I’m now kind of glad that was already taken. I think this title is a better one, because as silly as it sounds, I think that asking, “What can we do?” straight away makes the situation feel a little less overwhelming. The hardest and most empowering thing that we can do to start with is to pick apart the ideology of isolation and individualism that we’ve been indoctrinated into, and to realise that it’s never really you alone against the world. To fight the deepening divisions that we face, we must reach out to one another, and reclaim our sense of community and solidarity. Because the honest truth is, I actually know that I can’t change anything. But I still have hope that we can.
It’s going to be baby steps: in the absence of a snow shovel, we’re going to have to clear that beach one single starfish at a time. But then if you ask me, the demand for instant solutions is one of the biggest challenges we face today. Technology has fooled us into believing that we can have anything we want at the click of a button, and it’s a pernicious myth that makes us disappointed when solutions to serious problems aren’t that simple, often leading us to lash out and look for someone to blame.
I know that there’s an irony to my sitting home alone writing this blog on the internet. But my intention in starting this is to motivate myself to get out and do things, and then to write about them, and hopefully offer some inspiration to anyone else reading in the process (I’m not going to flatter myself there’ll be any significant number of readers at first, but even if it’s just a few it’s worth it). I’ll also be collecting together any articles or sites I think offer hope or useful suggestions – so if you’ve got any ideas yourself or even fancy writing something for me about something you’ve done or something you’d like to see happening, I’d love to hear from you. The more collective this project becomes, the better.
So, here’s to a 2017 that’s better than 2016. I mean at least it can’t possibly be much worse – right?