Illustration: Jennifer Dionisio
Illustration: Jennifer Dionisio

Opinion

A lesson learnt in 2016: we can’t look inwards even when the world is a scary place 

It is tempting to turn away from the horrors of 2016 but now, more than ever, we have to act, says Suzanne Moore 

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By Suzanne Moore on

It’s been a year when I have eaten too many meals in bed. Too many days have passed when I didn’t get dressed properly, when the demands of the world felt too big, so I did the bare minimum I needed to get by. I hit my deadlines and made dinners of a sort. They were as unbalanced as the state of the planet. One day, we would have a takeaway of fried meat floating in oil and the next day I would make some “healthy” vegetable stew to compensate. Sometimes, I seemed to be existing on chocolate orange Clubs and cava, while shouting at my kids to eat some broccoli. Why? Because. Because of everything. Because of the news.  The relentless news.

The world began to spin too fast and it felt out of control. Too many people died who just shouldn’t have died. Yeah, I tried to get some perspective, though Bowie’s passing shook my universe. Prince? I couldn’t even process it. Victoria Wood? So many went too soon. The awfulness of the killing of Jo Cox. Darkness everywhere.

This combined with the political world shifting on its axis was utterly discombobulating. Brexit was not such a shock – the divisions it revealed had long been there. We had deliberately chosen to ignore them. The election of Trump, however, was somehow. I had assumed that the Democrat machinery that I have seen up close would simply get out the vote for Clinton. They did, but not where it mattered. So, I was wrong about that. Turns out I was wrong  about a lot of things. Like many, though, there was a perverse comfort to be found in dwelling in this mixture of wrongness and sadness and indeed all kinds of loss. Social media seems to exist now for people often to tell each other how awful things are. Twitter has become a competition of hopelessness. It’s the modern way – a wearied cynicism that is cool and impenetrable. Everybody dies. Everything is doomed.

I realised much of what has happened this year has been the result of people fearfully trying to shrink their worlds

 

Poor me. Poor world. Let’s turn ourselves inwards and become ever more insular, nesting in our crumb-ridden beds, and pretend this isn’t happening. Buy more stuff you don’t need!  Make your world safer by making it smaller; be careful out there. Or, think. Yes, think, instead of just feeling some unspecified pain. Begin to manage it.

That’s what was brought home to me this year and got me out of the slump. Sometimes, you have to do the opposite thing to what you feel like doing. Get up. Go out. Be in the world. Engage. Make yourself uncomfortable. As I did, so I realised much of what has happened this year has been the result of people fearfully trying to shrink their worlds.

A strange kind of passivity has set in. Nothing can be done. Maybe that’s true. Maybe World War Three is on the way and the rights that so many have fought for can be decimated. Pull the covers over your face.

Or, remember that everything that can be taken away from you had to be fought for in the first place, whether that is the right to have an abortion, for people of colour not to be gunned down, for those fleeing wars to have sanctuary. We simply continue the fight.

Go find the places where you can make a difference – local campaigns or issues that you feel strongly about. Campaign, volunteer, organise. Fighting isn’t always dramatic. It is about many of us doing these small things.

Once you turn and face the world and become involved, then you will be with other people. Complicated, flawed, lovely, argumentative people. This indeed is what the world is. So, I learnt this year, once again, that retreating from the world is not an option if you want to change it.

Now, get out there...

@suzanne_moore

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Illustration: Jennifer Dionisio
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