2022 is rich with calamities. Roe v. Wade overturned. Climate catastrophes burn and flood our planet. Right wing violence and fascism on the rise. Plagues abound.
You may be wondering, “When will any of this get better?”
Well, here’s what I’ve learned over the past eight years…
You must first accept that no one is coming to save us – not from climate change, fascists, pandemics, none of it. But we are not doomed, because WE will save us! Sounds like a lot of responsibility, right? You might feel overwhelmed, perhaps a bit cheated as you contemplate this massive task. Please know this was always the only scenario that would work in the long run.
We have clear enemies. They are billionaires, fossil fuel execs, arms manufacturers, right wing politicians, useless liberal electeds, and probably also your boss. They possess too much power and too many resources, and care mainly about growing their vast fortunes at our expense. We must build a mass movement to take their power.
The good news is that there are way more of us than them. Hooray! We just have to work together to defeat them, which is also the bad news 😦 Sigh. I so often hate dealing with other people. But I also want a habitable planet, democracy, and free abortion on demand, so I accept my fate and work with others. That’s why I became a member of Team Save Us.
We must do more than voting once or twice a year. “More than” can mean many things, but it does not include yelling “VOTE” on the internet. In fact, yelling anything on the internet barely helps at all, except maybe if you’re famous. And if you’re reading this, you’re not famous. You and I are just the everyday Us. We don’t have big platforms.
The next step is to get involved with an organization that aligns with your values. You probably have no idea what you’re doing and that’s okay, as long as you’re willing to learn. You’ll learn best from other people who’ve been doing this longer than you have.
We only save ourselves through the combined power of many, many everyday people. That means we have to talk to each other, strategize, and act collectively. You might be thinking, “Surely there must be a more efficient way.” At some point someone will try to sell you an app that saves you the trouble of dealing with other people. You just type a message in the thingie and then others will do your bidding. Easy peasy, right? Haha, this is the exact same thing as yelling stuff on the internet! Nothing will come of it. There are no shortcuts. Building a mass movement means building relationships. You must engage in conversation and persuasion, and that’s a social muscle you have to keep working.
All this human interaction can be a real mixed bag. There’s a wonderful side to dealing with people, which is finding joyful community — meeting like-minded individuals, bonding over shared interests, making friends, maybe even falling in love. Then there’s the unpleasant part — encountering other people’s bad ideas, bad manners, or their myriad quirks. Sometimes I’ll be interacting with a person I find deeply irritating and ask myself, “Is this person an enemy?” It’s too bad they never are because then I could discard them without a second thought. I used to discard annoying people willy nilly. But if you stick around a community long enough you sometimes see them commit brilliant and brave acts. We’re not going to like all the people needed to defeat our enemies. But we need every single one of us who is willing to work together in good faith.
This isn’t about being a good person, it’s about shifting power. I strive to be a good person. But ultimately this is about taking power and resources away from the small group of Clear Enemies so that Team Us can start running the show. On a personal level, I do feel a moral obligation to participate (mainly because I’m a parent), but that’s just my flavor of motivation. I don’t expect that of everyone. The thing with moral superiority is that it often does the opposite of what we want; it tends to alienate people rather than drawing them into this big, messy work of building relationships. Over time, I’ve come to understand I’m not morally better than anyone who isn’t already on Team Us. I just haven’t persuaded them to join yet.
None of this is charity. Sure I donate to causes and fundraisers just like anyone with a few bucks and a beating heart. We must find ways to help the most vulnerable people in this moment. But we are all vulnerable. Climate change and fascism will come for us all in the long run. Team Us doesn’t fight for charitable donations. Our goal is to tear down systems of oppression that serve the Clear Enemies’ interests and replace all that with something better — food, housing, education, childcare, healthcare, ecologically sustainable communities, democratic control of our government and economy, and lots of leisure time with people we love. I have an enormous personal stake in all that coming to be. I’m in this for all of us, and that most definitely includes me and mine. I expect everyone else on Team Us to be just as personally invested. We fight together in solidarity, not as an act of charity.
We learn from losing. Underdogs lose a lot. The Clear Enemies have way more money and power, and they’ll play every dirty trick to keep it that way. When we lose it’s okay to bitch about the unfairness of it all for a little while. But then we get together and ask ourselves, “What will we do differently next time?” We incorporate that knowledge and keep going.
Trying feels better than not trying. Once you fully internalize the truth that no one is coming to save us, you have a couple options – nihilism or action. Personally, I’m no good at nihilism. I believe a far better world is 100% achievable eventually, if not in my lifetime. So I do my little part of this big, messy work. And I feel so much better than I did when I used to vacillate between denial and panic. I do experience occasional moments of hopelessness. I’ve learned that’s just part of the deal. We live in dispiriting times. Lately, I’ve felt a strong urge to retreat within myself entirely, because I’m too sad to be available to others. For a moment, I even considered what it would look like to quit my organization and just give up. I quickly assessed that giving up would hurt me more than anything else has hurt in 2022, and that’s saying a lot. Doing movement work is not about feeling like a good person, but it does connect me to something bigger than myself. I don’t assume the existence of a higher power or an afterlife. My only religion is solidarity, and I have a lot to learn. I’m still figuring out how to be a team player instead of a loner. Our current systems of oppression thrive on millions of us staying lonely. Building with others doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s the number one best antidote to the hopelessness that makes me want to give up.