On the common this morning, 7.50am, I heard a woman’s voice shout:
‘I DON’T CARE ABOUT UKIP OR DONALD TRUMP! I want to live my life with kindness and integrity! Now stop!’
And I realised it was me. Shouting at my husband. Because once the debate starts, you feel the squashed down frustration rise within you, and when its raining, and you passed up a half hour of peaceful meditation at home in the warm in order to be with the person you love and spend some quality time with them walking across the dank, fog laden pasture, only for them to start fulminating about the world’s crises, and you have brain freeze: of course, you’re going to shout. Like a child. Like a pushed-up-against-the-wall arsehole.
After I shouted, the wind took my words, as wind often does, and sprinkled them around me as I walked, so that they kept coming back and smashing me in the face with the ice rain. I try not to shout often. I laugh, I sing, I tell loud stories. But shouting and anger are things I avoid. Shouting is an ineffective method of communicating one’s feelings. And it is destructive. When I think of it, when I really look at myself doing it, it is simply a construct of fear, and of unhappiness. It is not my real person. It is the person who feels under attack, and must attack back. The animal self. And this is a sort of madness. We are all going mad, I think, because we are all under attack.
This year has been a perfect storm of outcomes. A lot of our heroes died: that feels like an attack on our emotions that goes deeper than a bereavement for a relative. If you think of Bowie dying, you think of parts of your memory stream dying with him: the feelings he gave you are personal highs to do with identity and love. I heard the John Lennon Christmas song in a shop the other day and teared up – I still miss John, and love him with a tender place in my heart. Famous people dying is always hard because we want ownership of the tragedy. But its everyone’s, and no ones – you don’t want to seem gauche and over the top, so you are quiet, sad, you say goodbye to something of yourself, and you shoulder the bag of responsibility and being grown up, and move on.
We had a referendum, and the US had an election. Both of these were funnelled through to us by a media stream more and more marginalised by factions on both sides of the arguments: and the politicians, being the sort of people who would want to become leaders, used this to their advantage. They manipulated and lied and strutted about like fighting cockerels, and we were asked to choose, based on – not the facts, God forbid – but on personalities and the best lies that were told. We were the audience in a talent show where the talent was for mendacity. And the end result? People die. Across the world, but also in our back yard. Everything in the world is reverberating out in concentric circles around a crater-like epicentre: Aleppo. And another: Yemen. There are others, and others. And even here, in Great Britain, we have a small crater: Birstall, West Yorkshire, where Jo Cox MP was killed.
The politicians and the media told us that there was no one representing the poor. And the poor and the middle incomes and the far right all rose up and voted for revenge, against an imagined status quo that was damaging them: the immigrants, the weird bogeymen who will take their livelihoods. And who did they vote in? Millionaires, over here. Billionaires in the US. Because of course, they will understand what it is to live out of a food bank. There is no one representing anyone, I think. We are all still reeling in shock, and going mad with anxiety and grief and sadness for our countries and our world. But, if you follow through my journey this morning to its end: there is hope. I continued to walk through the rain, husband and dogs by my side, and the rain beat down and gave us both brain freeze. We came home, boiled the kettle and drank tea. We were silent and forgiving of each other. It is what our world needs. We need to give ourselves silence. We need to drink tea and forgive.
Full disclosure: I work for a charity once a week, and sit on its committee. I give three hours a week to listen to people who are suffering. I do this because – it is the least I can do. I went towards it a year and a half ago because I was sick of sitting in my warm house and not doing anything. I was sick of myself and my inertia and my despair at the world. Putting the world to rights should not be something we do at home, while drinking tea in our warm houses. It can be done by engaging with the community – by being in the world. It is the best part of my week. It is the best thing I do in my life. My fellow volunteers are the dearest people, friends I value highly. It is how I counter my own madness and the madness that attacks me in the world.
I have gotten rid of my iphone this week and gone back to a phone that takes calls and texts only. I limit my news to glancing at the headlines on the BBC website in the morning, reading an independent newspaper which states its need to be as non partisan as possible only occasionally, and every few days, to honour the people who are dying in the world, I will catch the night news. I won’t listen to the politicians who have lied to us, and I won’t engage in arguments…in theory. I see this as a way to stop the attacks. Because, look, our lives are precious. If we concentrate on being kind to one another, and if we strive to create beauty in everything, laughter in everyone we meet, peace in our homes: perhaps we can counter the madness.