Grief, anger, and micro-actions

So, how is everyone doing this week? I’ll be honest – I’m not doing brilliantly.  I try to make this blog as positive and hopeful as possible, because I don’t see that there is much to be gained by afflicting everyone else with my depression, but yeah.  It’s been a rough week.  (Also, work has been both busy and chaotic, and all my joints have decided they hate me, which is not improving my mood.)

Also, it turns out that underneath the depression I’m actually really angry, which is an emotion I find hard to manage constructively.

Case in point: I was sent an article this week about a new film coming out, called 2040.   The film is by Damon Gameau, and it’s about the actions we can take on a personal and community level to mitigate climate change.  While he agrees and provides evidence for a climate emergency, he wanted to focus on hope, because he felt that ‘It makes things happen. People can too easily become depressed or overwhelmed by thinking about the future, and this makes it hard to think creatively or positively.’

This is something I generally agree with, but the article went on to say:

He didn’t set out to avoid economic and political issues, to ignore structural inequities, special interests and corporate power. The first cut of 2040 was more than three hours long, and he canvassed many of these things. “But it felt dry, felt too heavy, it felt like a different film.

The resulting work “is a more aspirational vision, with things we can strive for and fight for, rather than a familiar narrative that the system needs addressing” .

Now, I’m normally all about the micro actions, the little things we can do in our everyday lives to make the world a bit better.  And, as I’ve said, I try to be hopeful here, and not present problems with no solutions (or no mitigations).  But I have to admit, my initial response to this was absolute rage.

Because yes, of course there are things we can all do, but, frankly, me installing solar panels or compost or reusing my water is going to have very little impact if the government is just going to approve new coal mines and subsidise the mining industry.  There is a *reason* that the narrative that the system needs addressing is familiar.

Also… I can’t help noting that it is very convenient for the government and corporations to put all the responsibility for action back on the community.  Not only does this mean that the government can continue to do nothing, but it keeps those of us who really do care about climate change nicely occupied with policing ourselves and each other.  I’d also like to note, in passing, that it can be pretty difficult for someone who is struggling to get by on a pension, or who is spending all their usable hours fighting to get support through the NDIS to do a lot, because they are using a very high proportion of their resources just to survive. (Having said that, most of my friends who are on disability do an enormous amount despite these restrictions on their resources.  But it’s still a bit rich to demand that they pull their weight while the government does its best to undermine them at every turn.)

Of course, the fact that the article was from The Australian (which I’m finding  increasingly hard to treat as a good-faith news source), and that it was sent to me by someone who is, I suspect, quite happy with the election outcome (I am trying hard not to find out.  Which is to say, I’m currently avoiding all contact lest I say something unforgiveable.) probably contributed to my rage.

Anyway, I started writing back along the above lines, but quickly realised that this was unlikely to achieve anything positive and that it was far more mature (and so much more deliciously passive aggressive!) to write a blog post instead.  So here we are.

I suspect that 2040 is a good and useful film, by the way, and the fact that it apparently comes with a portfolio of actions to take is quite appealing.  I may even go and see it (though my track record for remembering to go and see films I want to watch is abysmal).  This is not about panning a film that I haven’t seen and that does not, so far as I am aware, deserve my rage.

But I wanted to put my reaction out there as a barometer, of sorts.  So many people responded to my last blog post with such heartfelt  grief and anger and fear that I thought it was only fair to be transparent and honest with you.  I want you to know that I’m not sitting up here, above all of this, dispensing words of wisdom.  I’m down in the mud with the rest of you, mourning the opportunity we have lost and feeling sad and furious and anxious about the future.  But we can be kind to each other from here, too.

I’m not going to stop my individual action, because if all we can do is bale out the ocean with teaspoons then that’s what we have to do.  And I know I’m luckier than most, which to my mind increases my obligation to wield my teaspoon with as much vigor as I can.  But it makes me feel sick that we had the opportunity to do something more – to at least break out the dessert spoons, if not the ladles – and we squandered it.

Anyway.  I wasn’t up to a serious letter-writing campaign this week, but I thought it might be worth listing some things I did manage to do, to look after myself and to try to help others.   (My list is pretty heavy on the petitions and donations this week, because money was something I could spare whereas time, energy and brainpower were at a pretty low ebb.)

I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to, too.

Ten things for me

  • I watched Eurovision with friends both in my loungeroom and in Germany via SMS.  (My favourite Australian thing is watching international events at unsociable hours while hanging out virtually with friends in Europe.  Yes, I’m odd.)
  • I went for a walk, and took some photos of flowers.
  • I had a day off and actually caught up on sleep.  Sleep is excellent.
  • I visited the new gnocchi shop that was just started by some people we know from the farmers’ markets, and we have certainly eaten a lot of gnocchi this week…
  • I did a bit of comfort re-reading – Speak its Name, by Kathleen Jowitt (really one of the kindest books I’ve ever read, reviewed here), and Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (fun regency fantasy, like Georgette Heyer but with magic).
  • I rode my bicycle to and from work on a really nice, not too windy day.
  • I rang a friend who I don’t get to catch up with anywhere near often enough, and we had a long chat.
  • I went to choir even though I really just wanted to go home and sleep, because I know that singing will actually make me feel better if I can just bring myself to start.
  • I booked a week of leave for after the next batch of grants go in.
  • I booked in to see a physio about my wrist, which I have buggered up again by doing too much writing and too much cooking.  (Sometimes, self-care is kind of basic…)

Ten things for others

  • I wrote to Scott Morrison congratulating him on his election and asking him to let Priya and her family go home to Biloela
  • I kind of accidentally held a unilateral dinner party on Monday.  In my defense, I just assumed that everyone was there for dinner and started cooking accordingly.  And nobody complained.  But apparently, no, our friends were just dropping in to say hi.  It was a really nice evening, though.
  • I wrote a brief note of thanks to Rebekha Sharkie, who has said that she will stand against attempts to repeal the Medivac Bill.
  • I took cake in to work on Tuesday.  Because I was not the only depressed person at work this week.  And I really do love my scientists.
  • I signed a petition to grant a visa to a 2 year old boy with haemophilia whose mother is here on a skilled shortage visa and is willing and able to pay for his health costs, and whose life will be significantly shortened if they have to return to the Maldives.
  • I put another $25 into my Kiva portfolio.  Kiva provides micro-loans to people starting small businesses in third-world countries, and donations can go a long way, especially if you recycle them whenever they get paid back.
  • I rang the vet who looked after our cat at the end of her life, and arranged to help pay a vet bill for someone who couldn’t afford it.
  • I signed a petition calling on all levels of government to declare a climate emergency.
  • I sponsored a friend’s fundraising walk, and helped her raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation.
  • I wrote this blog post!!  (That counts, doesn’t it?  I wanted to get to ten… and it hasn’t been my best week…)

(On reflection, I did a bit more than I thought, which tells me something about the way my brain works.  I’ve been taking notes this week in case I wanted to write a list of small, positive actions for this blog, and think I might continue the habit, for those days when the conviction of uselessness strikes…)

19 thoughts on “Grief, anger, and micro-actions

  1. My absolute favourite talkback moment this week was on ABC Melbourne when a woman rang in to say she was offended that people thought that because she’d voted Liberal she didn’t believe in climate change.

    I mean really, what can you say to that?

    Keep caring and maintain the rage. And hopefully we can drag a few more with us.

    • Oh dear. Yes, or the one who said that she’d been voting labor at the last two elections, but employment was still bad, so she had switched to Liberal. What?

  2. Writing a blog post totally counts.

    Also, I did the feedback survey for Vote Compass a little while ago, and mentioned that there’s this excellent analytical blog I follow that looked at all the political parties and linked them to Eurovision songs …

  3. I have nothing helpful to add except to link to this:
    and hope the kraken eats right-wing politicians first.

    I find it so hard to understand why people get scared of left-wing politics. How can “caring for people” and “trying to keep the planet habitable for humans” be so terrifying? People keep quibbling about the irrelevant details, like “is all the warming really caused by humans” and forget the only important point – doing whatever we can to slow it down! If you really hate change so much that conservative politics appeals, act fast to keep the planet how we like it, with frogs and little fuzzy critters and birds, because they’re disappearing fast.
    As Michael Crichton said: “Let’s be clear. The planet is not in jeopardy. We are in jeopardy. We haven’t got the power to destroy the planet – or to save it. But we might have the power to save ourselves.”
    And as Douglas Adams said, “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

    • Thanks, AA. It’s unfathomable to me, too. I suspect it comes from a belief that there isn’t enough to go round, and if we give anything to *those* people, then deserving Australians will miss out. Which is not actually true – my understanding is that we do, in fact, have the resources to feed the world several times over, if we only share things equitably.

      Or alternatively we could send krakens to eat the far right, but I don’t think I am quite ready to endorse that as a solution.

  4. Thank you for your wonderful posts and the last two in particular. I am scared for the future. I am scared of the climate my son will inherit. I am scared that I won’t be able to put food on the table for my family, my partner and I are studying full time and can barely afford it. I am scared that a majority of Australians prefer franking credits and climate change denial to evidence based policy and action. I am scared that my partner will have her payments taken away if we forget to report one day because of parents next. I am afraid that I will kill myself if I get a robodebt notice. I am afraid that mental health support will get cut to pay for tax cuts when there is already an 8 week wait to see anyone, even if you are suicidal. I am afraid that I won’t be able to pay for my the rest of my degree. I am scared that people can be tricked by a mid level marketer who offered nothing except tax cuts. I am afraid that human rights don’t seem to matter anymore. I am afraid that racism and climate change denial wins more votes than evidence based policy.

    Your posts and how to manage thoughts and feelings have been tremendously helpful and I cannot thank you enough for them. I voted below the line in the Senate down to the last candidate for the first time this election and without your profiles on each party/candidate I never would have felt confident enough to. Thank your for your incredible service to our democracy, you provide detailed, and entertaining, analysis of policy and parties which is often more relevant to the body politic of country than our media does and that is a tremendous achievement.

    Thank you for the incredible amount of work you have put in to not only make your own vote informed but to inform the vote of others.

    • Oh, that’s a lot. I’m so sorry you are having to deal with all of that.

      I’ve been thinking about your comment all morning, and haven’t known how to reply, because everything I can think of seems facile. But first and foremost, I want you to know that your comments here are important to me. They are always thoughtful and well-considered, and it honestly means a lot that my words can make an impact on someone who clearly has an enormous amount to contribute and who, in many ways, represents the future of this country. So please do hang in there. I’m horrified that things are so hard for you that suicide is something that forms part of your thinking. I only know you as words on a screen, but I would miss you if you were gone. The people around you must surely value you even more highly. So please, stay. The world needs you in it. I am certain of this.

      (And I hate to think of how many others must be where you are right now. I wish our country was better at valuing its people.)

      Something I heard today struck me as potentially useful, and that was about the importance of practicing hope – as an action, almost, even if one doesn’t feel it as an emotion. Sort of going through the motions of what a hopeful person would be doing (in my case, it’s getting out that teaspoon again), until it becomes real. When I was doing counselling training a long time ago, we were told that sometimes clinical depression can grow out of situational depression, because the brain gets into the habit of functioning in that particular mode and can’t break out of it. So perhaps a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to hope has the potential to help re-wire a brain more usefully? Though of course, one first needs the energy / capacity to perform those actions, which can be a sticking point. (And, obviously, if there is a brain chemistry issue, that’s also something that needs to be addressed.)

      Honestly, I’m just at the point of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks in terms of managing emotions right now. I think the election result was actually legitimately traumatic for a lot of people, and it takes more than a week to recover a sense of balance and normality after that. Right now, it’s just whatever gets you through the day.

      Good luck with your studies, and thank you, as always, for your comments on this blog. I’ll be keeping you and your family in my prayers.


    • I’ve linked to it where I wrote ‘gnocchi shop’ – they sell gnocchi (all kinds – beetroot, sweet potato, spinach and ricotta, blue cheese, pepperberry, carrot and turmeric… and lots more), fresh pasta, lasagnes, pizza bases and pasta sauces, which are all excellent (first time I’ve ever used a bought pasta sauce and not felt the need to improve it). Their vegetable gnocchi are vegan, and they make gluten-free versions of their pizzas and pastas. And their recipes change based on what’s available from Felicity’s family’s farm, so that’s pretty awesome too. Highly recommended!

  5. Apparently there is also a book version of 2040, which I’m thinking of getting in preference to the film. I assume (but will be checking before purchase) that it does contain the extended critique and actions in more easily referred back to form. Happy to loan it once it’s read.

    • Yes, so I understand. And it probably is useful, especially since we can’t do anything else right now. I’m just still terribly angry and upset that we have chosen to make it so that we can’t do anything else right now.

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  8. I am gobsmacked and bewildered and don’t know where else to disperse this feeling.

    The *Department of Environment* Is seeing “positives” from climate change! Like, how we can sell more seawalls to coastal areas about to be underwater! And how much more busy our defence forces will be!

    Oh yay! Let’s release some balloons! Hey, let’s fill them with methane while we’re at it, since global warming is the newest bestest thing ever! Yippee! It’s not a bad thing that most of the species on the planet will die, we only need a few hundred to feed ourselves with and we can genetically engineer better ones anyway! What an opportunity! Remake the planet to *really* suit us. Nobody will complain. At least, nobody the right colour/language/political affiliation. And most of the “wrong” people will die in the typhoon, or the drought, or whatever. Win-win! I thought I was as depressed and cynical as I could get. It never occurred to me our government would view frequent global natural disasters as a fabulous business opportunity. But of course, I should have. How naive am I?

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be under my bed weeping quietly.

    • I hear you. I don’t know what I can say that is constructive, but I’m glad you feel able to come here to vent.

      Here’s the trouble: if we are cynical, we don’t get hurt, but the price of that is that we push ourselves and others away from taking action. Being able to do anything requires a sort of openness or optimism or idealism. And I’ll be honest with you – while I try, on this blog, to find ways to be positive, to give my readers something constructive to do, I am, deep down, an extremely pessimistic person, and I’m finding the current direction of the world very hard to cope with.

      I don’t know how we maintain the openness that lets us act while still protecting ourselves enough to be able to continue acting. I don’t know where the borderline is between self-care and self-indulgent ignorance, or between useful action and burnout. I wish I did. I want to tell you to continue to be naive and hopeful, because I think the world needs naive and hopeful people, but I also wouldn’t wish the pain of that on anyone.

      That’s probably not all that helpful, but perhaps it is useful to know that you are not alone? I was at a rally a little while ago with a friend of mine, and I expressed my feeling that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing there – I don’t feel comfortable in big crowds, and the government doesn’t seem to listen anyway. She said something that stayed with me, which is that we are here to bear witness. Yes, the government is doing terrible things, and we bear witness to that. And yes, there are a lot of people who don’t accept these things, and we bear witness to that, too. We may not be able to change things, but we can be present and we can pay attention and we can tell others what we see, and perhaps it all adds up in the end. I’m still mulling over that one.

      I hope you are OK.

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