I’m neither an historian nor an academic. I’m not a politician (please let’s never mention my AS Politics grade, I’ll never live it down), nor am I an activist. With my diesel car and apathy towards recycling, I don’t do nearly enough for the environment. I could arguably be doing a lot more for the planet.
I care very deeply about the state of things. I take everything in; everything on board. As anyone else with a highly sensitive personality will know, living in a world of 24/hr scrolling news and violent and explicit imagery all over social media can often be overwhelming. I love the internet and broadcast media because it lets me look outside of my own little world, even when the view isn’t always pleasant. It helps me form opinions on current affairs and expands my capacity to empathise. People call me “intimidating” and “opinionated”. I take both of these terms as a compliment.
I’m trying not to watch coverage of the inauguration today. I find it upsetting, because of course I am delicate little Millennial snowflake and can’t handle anything uncomfortable or unpleasant. It’s upsetting knowing what the state of the world is in. If you think everything is just fine, I suggest you get off Facebook and start looking at the facts. Climate change is still happening. Animals are approaching extinction due to poaching and deforestation. Displacement and war are ongoing. The poles are still melting. The sea levels are rising.
A little known fact about me is that I am of mixed European heritage. If you go back a couple of generations, my ancestors lived in Holland. Go back further, they lived in Spain. Further still, the Middle East. I am, by all accounts, the descendent of migrants who travelled a fairly great distance from desert to the colder climes of Northern Europe. Today, I have family in Canada, California and Australia – about as far away as you can get from Britain. If anyone reading this cared to look into their own genealogy, you’d probably discover a similar picture.
When I was living in the United States in 2015, I would often get into conversations with people who provided me with human interaction while I was on my solo travels. I met a cab driver from Senegal, who told me he was living in New York illegally and worried every day about being deported. He spoke perfect English and had a lot of interesting and kind things to say about the plight of young people with regards to jobs and visas. He assured me lots of people were in the same boat. This was back in 2015, months before the poisonous migrant-centric rhetoric made acceptable by the – shit, it’s happened – 45th President of the United States.
Getting out of your self-created bubble, particularly the echo-chambers we have created by our dependence on technology, is the next step if we are to move forward. I wasn’t brought up to hate, and it’s something I can’t quite get my head around now as an adult. I see the consequences of it all around us: hatred of certain races and religions, hatred of people in a lower social “class”, hatred of women. Don’t become apathetic. Deactivate Facebook (nobody uses Facebook anymore, what is this, 2008?). Be careful about who you follow on Twitter, make sure to take on board a balance of opinions before you make your own mind up. Be mindful of fake news – it’s literally everywhere, but it’s pretty easy to spot.
THE GOOD NEWS: there is good news!
Enough, now. Enough memes, enough of feelings and what-ifs. We must start pushing back against what offends us in practical terms. Speak up when you feel marginalised. Speak up even louder when you witness someone else being marginalised. Women in particular, if you don’t want to do something because it makes you feel uncomfortable, or you just can’t be bothered, then don’t do it. There are a hundred ways to telling people they’re wrong without being aggressive. Try and show others another viewpoint. Be honest with people. If they’re a good person, they’ll understand. Ask for what you want. Don’t live a life of compromise. Make music. Travel. Create.
There is absolutely no doubt that hope will prevail. People half-joke that other periods in history have been worse, more destructive to the human race. Of course they have. But we are now enlightened by technology, we know exactly what the deal is. Politicians might try and tell us to ignore the experts (looking at you, Gove, you utter thimbledick). Look up the definition of expert, it means ‘a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area’. We need to listen to people who spend their lives dedicated to preservation causes. We need to help the rhinos and polar bears, and we need to help each other.
I’m sorry not to be able to join in the women’s march in London tomorrow. Unfortunately funds will not presently allow me a return flight to London before my big move next month. I’ll be there in spirit, and watching my Twitter feed intently, because I know that a lot of the people I follow will be there with shiny bells on.
In the words of former (!) president Barack Obama, author of bestseller ‘The Audacity of Hope’: “The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. And so, you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off and you get back to work.”
And so we must.