by Michelle La Guilla (reposted from my blog, firstname.lastname@example.org)
I wrote this almost exactly a year ago. And rereading it, it still rings true to me. I hope it does to you too.
It’s easy to think, looking around at all the horror and injustice in the world, that there’s nothing we can do. So easy to feel bewildered, to feel frightened, to feel helpless in the face of the machinations of governments and individuals who seem omnipotent, backed by resources most of us can only dream of. I felt this way recently, reading Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” – a wonderfully honest, brave, angry account of disaster capitalism and the “Big Lie” – that is, that free markets and freedom go hand in hand. It’s not the purpose of this piece to review that book, but very briefly, Klein exposes the way neoliberal ideologists have repeatedly exploited the chaos and confusion of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina to impose their vision by the back door, when the traumatised populace is still regrouping, not to mention US government funded adventures in torture and repression – notably the Pinochet regime in Chile, when the developmentalist policies of Latin American governments in the 1970s threatened to cut off profitable markets.
My point here is, in the face of overwhelming, David and Goliath style odds – militarism, wealth, surveillance, technology, power versus individuals – what can we do? What have we got, that will work, that will change things?
This blog was named in tribute to my dad, who died in 2000. By the time I was at primary school I hated Thatcher, the monarchy specifically and hereditary privilege generally, the death penalty and fox hunting (this is a representative but not exhaustive selection. Though it has to be said, mostly Thatcher) but not because I was mindlessly parroting his views. My dad told me what he thought, he told me why he thought it, and he let me make up my own mind. He didn’t assume I wouldn’t understand because I was a child, and he taught me to ask questions and to believe in social justice. I’m proud to say I’m still my father’s daughter, and as his spirit lives on in me, true red really ain’t dead.
It may seem like I just veered off on a wild tangent, but I wrote about my dad for a reason. Because the answer to what we can do lies, or so I believe, in our own hearts and those of our loved ones. The magnitude of evil and injustice in the world IS overwhelming. Yet if we keep asking those questions, keep talking, and above all keep our hearts open and loving in the face of those who have no respect for life, then who knows what the reverberations will be? Love can move the world, I truly believe that. So win the hearts and minds of people you love, encourage them when it seems the battle can’t be won, tell your children the truth. You don’t know who they’ll tell, or what they’ll go on to do – something you say to someone today could end up changing things in ways you can’t even anticipate. We have to take care of each other, and we have to keep bearing witness. The day we all shut down inside because things seem so hopeless, the day we turn for good to the prozac of consumerism and stop caring, is the day the battle is lost. But that’s not today, not for me and not for millions of others.
We have hearts, we have brains, and we have each other. And that’s all we have. Against war and torture, against poverty and inequality, against abuse and rape, that may seem like nothing at all. And yet in the face of all that brutality, isn’t continuing to care a miracle?
Keep loving each other. Keep talking. Keep doing what you can. Trust me, it means everything.
Postscript – I wholeheartedly believe that small acts, whether of kindness or defiance, have great power and value for their own sake. They keep us human, and they give us courage. But if you don’t also believe that these small acts can move mountains, remember Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white person in racially segregated 50s America, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott and becoming an icon of the Civil Rights movement. Her act of courage fomented social revolution – you never know when yours could do the same.