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Feeling down about the world? Rise up!

Person hanging their head. Photo: Alex/Wikimedia Commons

Many people are quite legitimately feeling down about the state of the world right now.

We are dealing with the United Nations climate report that confirms we only have a dozen years left to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, then there's the rise of fascism, the misery that led to the migrant caravan, the cynical right-wing vilification of that caravan, and numerous other wrongs that we either directly experience or see on a daily basis via our social media feeds (or both).

There can also be a devastating feeling that we are powerless to change any of these deep injustices.

Here are some thoughts on how to cope with some of this:

1. You're right and you're not alone.

The world is a pretty messed-up place. It's likely good to acknowledge that and not deny what we are feeling. Feelings are a big part of what make us human! It's also likely good to know that many of us are feeling the same way. On the hopeful side, the disillusionment we feel can also be an important catalyst toward resolving to fight smarter and harder. If we allow those feelings and take the time to mourn, then maybe it's possible to organize in an even more powerful way.

2. Step in, step back.

To cope with all this, it may be helpful to acknowledge that there are times when we will need to step back and ground ourselves and that there will be times when we feel stronger and are more able to step back into the fight. It may be helpful to see this as a repeating pattern, as natural as waves. Someone also once told me that fighting for social justice is a marathon, not a sprint and to adjust my pace accordingly in order to avoid burnout.

3. No choice.

It may also help to work through feelings of despair by acknowledging that many have no choice but to struggle. It is important to recognize that it's another whole level of struggle if a pipeline is about to run through your territory, if a poisonous refinery is already there, if you lack clean drinking water, if your employment is precarious, and if you experience oppression because of your skin colour, gender and sexuality. This is where acknowledgement of privilege and a commitment to genuine solidarity can be so important in getting everyone through these times.  

4. Find your place in the revolution.

There can also be the feeling of not knowing where to start, not knowing where to turn (is meeting with my MP going to change things?), ineffectiveness (did signing that petition really accomplish anything?), and even feeling let down by our own traditional institutions of change. There are no easy answers to any of this other than to take the time to find out for yourself what makes sense to you and what gives you some measure of satisfaction and feeling of effectiveness. That time of reflection and settling on an approach that is meaningful to you can be important in sustaining your fight-back.

5. Find hope.

Hope can be found in an experience, in a person, in an inspiring story about an act of resistance, in a book, in music, in a quote, in a vision, in a dream, and many other places. I've recently found hope in science fiction author Ursula Le Guin's quote: "We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable -- but then, so did the divine right of kings."

I'm not a psychologist, or an elder, just someone thinking through the question of how to cope and wanting to help some friends who are feeling down.

This clearly isn't a complete list on how to cope with the world, it's just the beginning of one among many discussions of this.

I'm sure there is a lot of collective wisdom out there that would help all of us. Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

And remember: "Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Alex/Wikimedia Commons

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