The view from here
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Even though we are all still absorbing the ramifications of what happened in Christchurch last week, I feel the need to write down some thoughts, if nothing else but to release them from my brain.
This is also an effort to reach out to others who are feeling generally yuck and concerned about the state of humanity.
Here are some of the thoughts that have entered my head since Friday - followed by an earnest effort to temper them. If the below resonates or you have anything to add, please let me know!
Thought #1: The world has gone mad. People are losing their minds and it’s only getting worse.
Reframe: Emotionally, it totally feels like this. How could it not? But the fact remains that as the years go on, the state of the world is actually getting better. Yes, I know - it’s hard to believe right now. This book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling will comfort you while also blowing your mind with statistics that prove why we should be more optimistic. It will also help you keep things in perspective when events like this happen. It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time and I think everyone should have a copy. It’s not a quick read, but taking it one chapter at a time will help to absorb the important messages. You can get an e-book version or an audio version if that suits you better - and it's also available at the Auckland Library - and likely one near you.
Thought #2: The world is being run by morons and we are doomed to suffer the consequences of their vanity and stupidity.
Reframe: Leadership is so important in a time of crisis. I’m immensely grateful that we have a Prime Minister who responded with compassion and care for all, and took immediate action to change what can be changed to protect the people who live here. From refusing to give the criminal notoriety, to her dedication to helping the victims, Jacinda Ardern’s skilful response and graceful demeanour has made us proud - and may even have set the example for the rest of the world. The positive response to what she has done lends hope that the international community wants a leader who would do the same for them - and hopefully votes for one when the time comes. This open letter to Jacinda Ardern from a teenage girl from Australia says it all.
Thought #3: People are willfully ignorant and there is an epidemic of internet trolls who feed on chaos.
Reframe: On one end of the spectrum, we have people who refuse to admit there is even a problem. However, I find it uplifting that when confronted with the horrific actions of a deranged criminal, there have been so many people who have looked inward and asked, ‘how did I contribute to this?’, ‘what can I do better to make the world safer?’ Here is one example of a man admitting he is a “little bit racist” and describes his experience growing up “different” in a mostly white neighbourhood. And another example from a woman who points out all of the small supposedly “harmless” ways that we all allow for racism to happen in New Zealand. There is also this comic that demonstrates these problems are not just “over there” in the dark web on the other side of the world - they are here, and only by recognising that and working together can we create meaningful change. I think the willingness to consider the problem as a collective issue is a sign of hope and has so much positive potential.
Thought #4: The people who most need to reflect and critique their behaviour don’t and won’t.
Reframe: This is the most frustrating thought for me. What I try to remember is that hard right-leaning people have developed their world views through their own particular life experiences and are above all: scared. Terrified that what they don’t know or understand will somehow hurt them or their family, and so make external “others” the enemy as a defense mechanism. And you simply cannot argue with ideas that are not based in logic but emotional fear. The only way I’ve been able to cope with some of the inane commentary of justification for these heinous acts is by commiserating with like-minded people. Thank you to my NZ friends, empathetic personalities of social media communities - and kind strangers - for keeping me sane. Also to the American late night shows like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, etc. for making me laugh while reminding me that none of this is normal and I’m not taking crazy pills. There will be a time to return to the debate, but for now, I need to hear people call it out for what it is - misguided extremist ideology, propped up by apathetic enablers.
Thought #5: It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Reframe: When people somehow try to justify or damper the fact that 50 people were murdered by bringing up extremist Islamic ideology as some sort of morbid comparison, it is a sad state of affairs. However, there are so many other signs of good things happening. People are paying more attention to politics and government, educating themselves about other cultures, stepping up to challenge damaging beliefs, reaching out to communities they never would have before, donating money (over $7 million already!) and giving time to help and honour victims. People are showing up and taking action - a key element in winning the struggle for peace and progress since the beginning of time. If you are feeling like you need/want to do something, here are some ways to help.
It’s going to take some time to build up the optimistic reserves, but in the meantime, you’re not alone! Take care of yourself.
Uplifting news sites for a happy distraction:
Sometimes you just want to see the good stuff going on. And with these sites, you can.
NZ support network
1737, Need to talk? - Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
Author - Meghan Advent
Meghan is a digital editor originally from Canada living as a permanent resident in New Zealand.