How can we bear the injustice in the World, without being overwhelmed? How can we oppose injustice effectively?
Nadia Bolz-Weber at Greenbelt said she did not pick the low-hanging moral outrage fruit. She did an interview about pornography, and a Conservative commentator used one line from it to publish an article with a clickbait title, Feminist “Pastor” says porn can be ethical. He did this to get ad revenue. Then his readers all click, and get riled, and have a pleasant feeling of righteous anger. Then The Federalist picked up the story. People are angry, because sites want clicks. The anger produces no good at all, no worthwhile change, just greater self-righteousness and division. So what to do?
She also says her husband was a wonderful human being but with her lover now she is truly loved and it has released her softness. She can still do acerbic stand-up Nadia but does not want to.
Michael Leunig drew cartoons on a wipeable sheet with a camera. He showed his little man and how simply he could show different emotions with a slightly different shape of mouth or eye. He says he draws intuitively. When he has a conscious idea of what his picture might be it often turns out badly. So he starts to play on paper and something emerges. He wanted his time in the Playhouse to be a conversation, and microphones got passed round, but he was not understanding the questions. Several times he would look puzzled and say, “what?” And we did not repeat ourselves.
I wondered if it was our accent- he grew up in Melbourne- and our politics, so I used an Australian example, Andrew Bolt mocking Greta Thunberg as autistic, but his face still showed incomprehension. I talked about anger and how there were people seeking to channel our anger for nefarious ends; so I was grateful for him making us happy. He wasn’t sure about happy. Be kind. Be like children. I got applause for my question. We need activist energy not sucked into the anger outrage machine.
After I got chatting and a woman suggested Leunig’s incomprehension had been about the miserable stuff. Many questions made a narrative: goodgoodgood positive possibility; but- angstangstangst; so- what? Or, Help! Except for the man who asked Leunig to draw a teapot, which he drew on the character’s head.
Mmm. Just tune the angst out- at least when it’s clear it is old anger, recycled, not doing any good. That could be a plan.
Thinking about this, I tried it. I walked past the Action for Children stall (she needed to explain it was formerly National Children’s Home) slowly enough for the woman there to call me over. She told me how AfC had their 150th anniversary, and marked it with a report on how childhood had changed over that time and the difficulties of childhood now. As she listed them, I allowed myself to feel the sadness and puzzlement and hurt they evoked in me, and as she went on I showed misery in my face. When I closed my eyes and bowed my head she asked if I was alright and whether the festival was too much for me, and directed me to the Haven where there was emotional support available. Then I explained what I was trying: allowing the feeling and emotion to flow in the moment without filter. It needs work. I am alright, just not filtering.
Extinction Rebellion did a talk, and as I walked past I heard of affinity groups. I believe I will not take personal action against DSEI, and am sad about that. I don’t know if it really is my leading and I am bottling it because I don’t believe I am strong enough, or I would like it to be my leading because that would make me feel good about myself but realise it isn’t. Or I am conflicted, part of me wants to participate and part does not.
I don’t have an answer. Knowing and accepting my feelings as I increasingly do is good. Being aware of the ways the internet can channel them harmfully and seeking not to be so caught up is a possibility. I might notice when I am caught up. Or realise that the wash of emotion happens, and sometimes I am feeling in the moment, knowing my feeling, and empowered by that.
Preaching joy may not work, though. I saw Vickie Cooper signing her book “The Violence of Austerity”. I went over to say that I can’t afford my rent and my savings are draining but- here we are in the beauty of the Field and the people! And she talked of how bad austerity is. She gave me her book without charge, signing it “Keep fighting the Struggle and don’t let them get you down”. So now I have to read it.
I get better with feelings. Practice helps. This analysis helps. What do you think, Friends?