I want to cry and be comforted. My OH wants to punch something. As you can imagine, these two reactions to the election results are not playing happily together.
It seems to me that we will lose Scotland. We will probably lose Northern Ireland as well. For the first time in hundreds of years we will just be England again, alone among nations to whom we have given ample reason to hate us. Bye bye Great Britain. Bye bye the United Kingdom.
Obviously from the perspective of anyone who isn’t English, this is probably a good thing, and I comfort myself with the thought that this decision is likely to finally stop us from meddling with the world like a half-senile Darth Sidious, because England with little power in the world will be an England that can do less harm. Maybe, just maybe, we will finally be in a position where we have to mind our own business for once.
Or maybe we’ll become a vassal state of the US. Again, I’m sure the irony of this will give folks around the world a good chuckle. I can’t say I fancy it, myself though.
Whatever. The big picture will resolve itself in time and I feel like whatever it’s like for us, our humbling will probably be an improvement for the rest of the world. That’s something to be thankful for in itself, if you take the really big view.
The more immediately worrying thing for those of us who live here is what will happen to our human rights once they’re not being backed by the European Court. What will happen to our economy? What will happen to our NHS? What will happen to those of us who are already poor or who are marginalized for some other trait like race or gender/sexuality? What will happen to the immigrants and EU citizens who have been contributing to our society so well so far. Our friends and neighbours? The Conservatives do not have a good track record of caring for any of these people. (Putting it mildly.)
What will happen to our world? Now the Government is in bed with the rich and the rich are in bed with the petrochemicals industry, where is the impetus going to come from to make the changes we need to literally save the world?
I’m not going to deny that this is an unmitigated disaster.
But it’s an unmitigated disaster that for some reason a sizable majority of us have decided they want. So it’s an unmitigated disaster that we are all going to have to mitigate somehow.
Which brings me to my three things to do now. First of all;
- Take time to get your mental legs back under you.
It looks like we’re going to be fighting for a long time, with nothing less than the future of humanity and the planet at stake. (I’m not exaggerating here. Look at the climate change data.)
That’s a lot of pressure for a human mind to bear. So the first thing to do is to take care of your mental and physical health. Stay away from the news for a while. Phone a friend. Concentrate on enjoying the festive season. Take long walks, or meditate, or pray. If you need to, go to the doctor while you can still do it for free and get the medicine you need.
You’ve just become part of the resistance, and the world needs you to be in the best shape you can be.
- Rekindle your hope and determination. Remember that you can still make a difference.
Okay, so we can’t trust the government to look after us. Specifically we can’t trust the government to look after our poor people, homeless people, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, immigrants or young people.
That means we’re going to have to do it ourselves.
Likewise, we can’t trust the government to support the values we hold dear. Tolerance, open-mindedness, fact-based reasoning, caring more about people than about money. Religion and politics based on love instead of profit.
Those values are going to have to be kept alive, transmitted, argued for and inspired in others, if possible.
Which brings me to step number three:
- Find something you can do to help and do it.
I have been finding more and more hope in Rabbi Tarfon’s saying in Pirke Avot “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (2:21) Which I take to mean that you don’t have to save the world all by yourself, you just have to do what you can do. You have to do something.
I can’t tell you what you can do. You know best what causes are close to your heart and how far your time and resources stretch. But you could volunteer for a local LGBTQ+ charity, or a homeless shelter. You could become a member of the Labour party, or Liberty or some other human rights organization. You could arrange a regular donation to a charity doing the work you want to see done but can’t do yourself. You could join a union. Start a coop. Plant some trees. Grow food and encourage other people with gardens to grow food and give it away. Join a group on Facebook which gives something necessary back to your local community.
It’s surprising what is already out there, in terms of people doing good things whom you can join.
And if you’re a writer, like me, you may be feeling as though what you do is pointless in the face of this disaster. As though you ought to pack it all in and volunteer for some good cause/become an anarchist/go live on an island on your own – anything other than continue to tell stupid stories about a friendlier world.
To you I would say ‘no.’ Your work is keeping alive the knowledge of the things we’re fighting for. Even now I’m constantly turning to Tolkien for backbone and inspiration, and he wrote through an even more terrifying time than this. What he created was more than worthwhile. It was the star that shone above the reeking mists of Mordor and provided proof that something greater endured . Perhaps we can do that too. It has to be worth trying.