I’m torn between a loathing of nationalism and a natural optimism (of sorts). Also I tend to write against cynicism more often than not.
I think it’s important to note that we are ridiculously lucky. But the fact is that isn’t enough. It’s still vitally important to want to make the world a better place. That includes the country we live in, and in fact, the local makes the best starting point.
(Not ‘the local’ as in the pub you most often frequent, though there should be nothing wrong with attempting to improve the ethical stature of your favourite public house).
The problem with the ‘gone to shit’ rhetoric is that it is essentially a piece of linguisto-political inertia. The phrase adapts to any political point of view (or lack thereof) to create an immediate malaise about the status quo (or the slow dismantling of it).
The fact is that there is lots of shit going on at the moment that is really bad (from my point of view, the minority led government is using the ‘gone to shit’ hypothesis as an excuse to push public services into the shit, thus ensuring more and more people are ‘in the shit’ (not ‘Nam)). There is bigotry and unpleasantness rife, despite huge progress over the last sixty odd years in terms of rights and protections and recognition of huge numbers of people.
But the leading narratives of our press and our people are still negative and cynical and pessimistic.
It feels like we live in depressed society. Not because of the recession, but just out of a feeling of uselessness.
And yes, it’s always been like this, it just feels realer and worse now because now is when things are happening. Don’t let the optical illusions created by proximity to the present allow nostalgia and conservatism to take root. The important thing to remember is actually that now is where things can happen, and it’s the closest available moment to the future, where things can be different.
The shittyness of now is the compost of the future.
The hardest thing is to feel like you can actually make a difference. I’ve still not figured that one out yet.
I suspect the key is to start internally, on yourself, make changes and watch improvements and then let them radiate outwards. The more as you want to be you are, the easier it is it impact those around you. You drop the guilty sense of hypocrisy and get to show by example.
Perhaps you can’t challenge the government as an individual. But you can show those around you that there are positive, constructive and helpful ways of living. You can work on the way you interact with everybody you meet to flatten the playing field.
Respect and self expression can actually help change the world in tiny ways.
You are a tiny part of the world. Maybe small, but also real. Heal thyself, radiate outwards.
Be the society you want to be.
Illustration by Anna-Kaisa.