I’m approaching you, I wrote to a handful of people I know whose job it is to be mindful in their commentary, wondering if you had the will and time to share what a sound, wise, mindful way of coping with Whatever The F*ck Is Going On Right Now. I’m after the “better” and “bigger” response. We all are. Got ideas?
I highlighted to my motley crew of good-minded pals that many commentators are struggling to find the better and bigger response. Jeffrey Frank in the New Yorker pointed out that Trump’s antics have left most of us speechless. But this is not good enough. We need to do more than be left without words for what’s going on.
Is protest the way forward? What do we tell kids? How do we view the reverberations that are already happening close to home.
I’ve also noticed the comedy memes, tiles and skits we’re flocking to on the socials. My fear is that comedy works when the joke takes reality and goes more extreme, more vile, more OTT. With Trump’s behaviour, little room is left for the gag. And so the danger is that humour could get very us v’s them very quickly. Ian Crouch in the New Yorker (again) points to a kind of political comedy that focusses less on recrimination and retribution toward fellow-citizens than it does on asking people to take a fresh look at seemingly entrenched divisions, one that speaks to the better parts of people, and talks about our flaws more as foibles than sicknesses. It’s worth reflecting on this.
My female writer’s crumpet David Brooks, meanwhile, wishes upon the situation the “gift of fraternity”.
“I’d give him the gift of some crisis he absolutely could not handle on his own. The only way to survive would be to fall back entirely on others, and then to experience what it feels like to have them hold him up.”
It’s wishful thinking. So I turned to my friends for something better…
Big-minded responses to Trump
“Donate to anti-Trump causes,” Rebecca Huntley, author and social commentator.
“Despair is what they want you to feel. So you do what you were doing before he became President only more so. Try to be thoughtful, kind and reflect on your own actions every day. Dedicate yourself to a job that makes the world a better place (whatever that means). Oh and every month I donate to an American and an Australian organisation fighting for the things Trump and his people hate. I choose different ones every month. So last month it was the Obama Foundation and the Asylum Seekers Centre here. I’ll do that every month that guy is President. That’s it.”
“Face your own stuff you’ve been repressing,” Louise, artist and emotional mentor.
“From my own experience with, and studies in trauma, what is ignored, avoided or silenced has a way of returning, and the more it has been pushed down the greater the shock. America has a lot of collective trauma and it feels like the current political climate represents a huge slap in the face from reality. Race, sexuality and other divisive issues can no longer be ignored because they are right here, right now. This is a shock and it feels bad.
But this is not a time for checking out. It is not a time to dive into avoidant spiritual bypassing with grand ideas of the ‘greater meaning’. It also is not a time to get lost within catastrophising. It is a time to come face-to-face with, and feel, the pain within the micro and the macro. The personal and the global.
On the personal level this could well be the perfect time to address our own pushed down and avoided traumas. To process our own locked away emotions, finally. To feel instead of avoid.
Within the bigger picture it is time to speak up, especially for those who have been silenced. It is time to educate and really check our privileges. It is also the ideal time to get off the computer and the social media and step out fully into the real world and connect with each other, touch more, talk more. Have real conversations, be vulnerable. Activism works, but feeling, grieving and empathy make way for real change. We can feel and fight.”
[I feel this feeds into something I read in (once more) the New Yorker where Michael Specter, an expert in denialism, points out that suspicions about vaccines, dread of G.M.O.s, or even confusion about climate science—is often rooted in fear. And fear deserves to be taken seriously. “Reason, patience, and education don’t always work. But they go further in confronting those fears than self-satisfied condescension,” he wrote. – Sarah]
“Compensate for the lack of compassion,” Hugh Mackay, psychologist, author and social commentator.
“This is the moment for all people of goodwill who did not vote for Trump to show respect towards those who did. And we all need to compensate for the lack of compassion in high places – in the US and elsewhere – by showing more kindness in our encounters with each other.”
“Keep the camera rolling,” Tim Brown, meditation teacher and father.
“There are really only two alternatives. We can look at it in isolation and consider it ‘a disaster’ or ‘non-evolutionary’, a ‘backward step’, which in a limited time frame it may well be assessed to be so. Or, we can entertain the idea that there is a balancing of forces taking place that in a longer time frame will bring to light the awareness that the current events were necessary to move everyone and everything towards a more refined approach, a more evolved position.
So, I find the way to be aware of, yet not overwhelmed by, the events unfolding is to ‘keep the camera rolling’. When we take snapshots of events in isolation it leads to over-investiture in the idea that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Which in time will reveal itself to not be true, leaving us a bit embarrassed by our lack of faith in the intelligence of the universe and humanity. When we ‘keep the camera rolling’ we can be engaged and active in the dynamics and ever changing nature of life, fascinated by the unfolding drama, yet not consumed and disaffected by events that will ultimately lead us to become part of the problem, rather than an active part of the solution.”
“View through a psychopath lens,” David Gillespie, lawyer and author.
“Trying to understand Trump using an empath’s rule-book is pointless and harmful (to you). As a psychopath, he is incapable of strategic thinking, is fearless, impulsive and goal-oriented. Like all psychopaths he creates a smokescreen of confusion so that he can get on with feathering his own nest in peace. The smokescreen is created by manipulating empath’s emotions.
In terms of advice, don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Step back from the emotional turmoil they create and look dispassionately at what they are really trying to achieve with you, then respond dispassionately to that.”
[David, of course, is referring to psychopaths in general – he’s writing a book about them right now – but I suspect we could apply his advice to the phenomenon from a distance, too. – Sarah]
And me? I think we get the leaders we deserve/need. This being so, I’m choosing to use current happenings as an opportunity to stand back and see what we, as a culture, need to confront.
A disciple of Thich Nhat Hanh told journalists recently,
“People we perceive as our greatest enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we find unpalatable.”
I tend to agree. I see it as an opportunity to look at our own arrogance, selfishness, reactionism, vanity, stubbornness, blame, cowardice, self-centredness, over-consumption, abuse of resources, fear of “other”…and to make inroads into confronting and correcting such unuseful human traits. I’m seeing this happening already. Activism is on the rise. People are speaking out on the environment, feminism, crass consumption and more.
It’s about time.
Perhaps Trump is a gift.
What are you telling your kids, sharing with friends when they go down the spiral of doom? I think this is the better and bigger thing to do, to discuss progressive, kind ways forward, don’t you?