169) The despair you are feeling right now:  Dead children, bombed hospitals, the lies of tyranny in a dying world, and the crushing hopelessness of “what the fuck can I do about any of this?”

I know that a lot of my friends are grieving and in shock these days. We are witnessing yet another act of state terror inflicted on children and families and people who just want to LIVE and enjoy the blessing of being alive on this miraculous planet. We are witnessing the murder of thousands of people and the erasure of entire families from existence.  And yes, we witnessed the act of terror that killed more than a thousand people going about their lives and was the proximal cause of this escalation of genocide that is now breaking the world’s hearts.

We don’t want dead kids and body parts in the streets.  We don’t want the news to be about air strikes on hospitals, and millions of desperate people fleeing through what were once streets and are now rubble, trying to get to a safety that may never exist for them.  We don’t want world powers, bristling with weapons, telling us their bullshit about “security” and “defence” when it is clear that the Powerful Few who are psychotic in their disregard for human life and in their clamouring for power, are incontrovertibly making things worse for ALL of us.  

What can we do, in the midst of a genocide?  What can we do, in the midst of tyranny that’s been happening, and strengthening, since before we were born?  We can we do, in a world that burns its own living flesh, due to the greed of the most-privileged minority who clamour for ever-more wealth and power?

None of us want this.  

You probably want to ignore the news a lot of the time these days.  You probably want to ignore the plight of another dying species, another bombed people, another law passed taking away people’s rights.  It fucking sucks, it’s fucking crushing, and as the shittiness of the world escalates, it seems to be getting worse and worse.  And, it is.  

It’s ok to look away sometimes.  To bury your mind in a TV show or a hockey game or the “haha” moments of meme-culture, or whatever you find distraction in. It’s ok.  You’re human.  We cannot stare into the abyss and never blink, or we will simply go insane and be useless to do any good in the world.  

It’s ok to have moments of weakness, days lost in doing not-much-of-anything.  It’s ok.  Forgive yourself.  You are not infinitely strong. 

In fact, the need to “look away” means you care.  It means that the deep parts of you, your heart, your soul, are Love, and your Love recoils from the horrors we are witnessing every day, either directly through pictures and videos or abstractly through our intellectual comprehension of how fucked the world is.  

Your need to escape is in a sense, beautiful, because it means you FEEL the horror of what’s happening.  

Forgive yourself.  Spend time with loved ones.  Or just fuck around and have a good laugh about something.  It’s healing.  It’s regenerative.  

And then, when you can, look back at the horrors.  Because they are real.  They are happening.  The dead children, ripped apart by bullets and bombs, slaughtered by hate and indifference, are real.  And only by looking at them, will we collectively feel enough despair, enough rage, enough hopelessness, that we shake ourselves out of the complacency that the power-brokers have engineered in us through the “soma” of mass entertainment culture and the promise of pleasure and personal freedom that money, we believe, will bring us.  

We need to look at dead children, when we can.  We need to read about bombed hospitals, when we can.  We need to know that the animals we love, the ecosystems that we find beautiful, the trees we find companionship in walking under their branches or gazing at their beauty throughout the seasons, are dying.  They really are.  The world we grew up in, is not the world we are creating for our descendants to grow up in.  That is a fact.  

So when you can, look at what’s happening.  Read about it.  Learn about it.  Feel the despair.  Have your heart broken so many times that it becomes atomized, and you finally FEEL your full interconnectedness with all things.  

Rage.  Love.  Rage more.  Love even more.

And you will, inevitably, start connecting to thoughts of what YOU can do to affect the horrors around us.  Because there ARE things you can do that make a difference.  

I’m listening to music right now, and typing words onto a screen while drinking tea.  I have tears in my eyes.  I’ve cried twice today and come close more times than that.  

I met with a friend this morning, and shared bits of our lives in conversation.  We laughed.  We mourned.  We got excited about ideas.  We talked about our relationships.  And, that makes a difference.

I played chess today, and used some of that time to connect with the LGBTQ+ global chess community, a network of people I love dearly and, through a game, have a way of connecting with.  More thoughts were shared.  Support was offered.  Stories were told.  And, that makes a difference.

I had a friend reach out on Facebook to share her feelings of hopelessness.  I wrote her a letter in response.  That led to this writing I’m doing right now.  And, that makes a difference.

I saw a post on Facebook in a community group from a person wanting to help a friend who lives in another country and is physically disabled and is trying to learn how to cook.  So I spent a few minutes sharing insights about easy ways to make healthy meals, when you can only stand at a stove for a few minutes at a time, and know next-to-nothing about cooking.  And I spent another minute expressing directly to that stranger, how loving she was being, and what a good friend, to care so much that she was taking this time to gather wisdom from “the hive mind” and share it with her friend.  And, that makes a difference.  

I do not believe in the simplistic mantra of “just focus on your own life and do what you can for the people in your own sphere.”  But I PARTLY believe in that.  MOST of what we do is meaningful and important at the personal level.  We make a difference in the world, primarily, by making a difference to our families, friends and communities.  

We make a difference through the way we raise our children, the way we treat our loved ones, the way we listen to our friends and care for them, the way we smile at strangers, or ignore them, talk to cashiers, or treat them like soulless cogs in a machine.  

We make a difference by challenging the bullshit of religion and dogma that we grew up being brainwashed by, and sharing instead the wisdom of genuine spirituality and interconnectedness.  

We make a difference by taking pictures of pretty leaves and posting them online, going for a walk and breathing in the beauty of the still-living world around us.  

We make a difference through de-corporatizing our lifestyles and promoting values of simplicity, and earth-friendliness, self-sufficiency, humility, and equity/equality.  

We make a difference through what we eat and where we get it from.  

We make a difference from enjoying nature, and music, and art, and dance, and supporting the strengthening of community ties.  

We make a difference when we lead by example, and speak out when we know something is wrong.

We make a difference through our own self-care, through gaining victory over our own addictions, healing from our own traumas, and then sharing what we know with people who still have those steps to take with themselves.  

We even make a difference through getting enough sleep at night, so we are less enervated in the face of whatever-needs-to-be-done-next.

But yes, I don’t believe in the mantra that we should just look to our own lives and loved ones.  That’s like taking care of your family in the middle of the Holocaust, and doing nothing else.  YES, you have to take care of your family, and yourself.  AND use the energy that comes from love and health, to also contribute to changing the system.

My grandparents, in World War 2, sacrificed and suffered and were tortured, and did their best to feed their babies and protect their loves ones.  But they also joined the underground resistance movements in Holland.  They sabotaged things, destroyed shit, and Resisted. They were jailed, and escaped, and were jailed again, and escaped again, and kept fighting. My father would never have been born, had my grandmother not had the strength to resist torture and not give away her family and allies. I would never have been born. My children would never have been born. My grandparents’ strength, courage, and suffering gave me my life.  

Our personal sphere DOES exist within larger systems.  What we do at the personal level matters for those systems.  But we also need to directly confront them.  We just do; it’s the unfortunate, terrible burden of living in a destructive system.  There are no alternatives, when “the system” is fundamentally violent and the destruction it causes can so easily overwhelm the love of a million families caring for their children.  As we see now in the horrors facing the Palestinians and Ukrainians (and have seen for our whole lives, to the extent we’ve been looking).

The horrible truth of this Age of Humanity, is that we are living in a time of rising tyranny and fascism.  As the wealth gap increases to an unimaginable scale, and we create more billionaires with private jets and massive estates who eat and pillage indiscriminately the wealth of the living world, as the military-juggernauts grow ever-more-powerful and terrifying, as we invent more terrible weapons (for “security”), as we slaughter more species and as we change the fundamental biochemistry of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the soil upon which we depend for our very lives, what is happening in the world is that those tiny few who seek power and live through greed and ego, are engineering a system of horrifying control, step-by-step turning our world into a macrocosm of Palestine.  Most people don’t fully see it, yet, but growing numbers do. And in a short a time, this will be our world.  

It is the sacred responsibility of those who have looked more deeply into the interconnected horrors of the past, present, and sadly, future, to share what they know.  Because yes, it is heartbreaking.  But reality IS interconnected.  We exist only through inter-being.  And if heartbreak is necessary to shake us out of our complacency, then, well, it’s necessary.  

Have the courage and love to get your heart broken.  Look at the dead children and body parts in the streets.  Watch the videos.  Read the stories.  Suffer.  Weep.  Rage.

And get involved.  In your personal sphere, when you can.  And in larger collective movements that are directly confronting power, and demanding change.  

One bomb, one single bomb can kill literally millions of people.  But millions of people can also band together and overthrow the systems of tyranny that manufacture these bombs and give control over their use to the psychotic, greedy few who hold the reins of power. 

We need a global revolution.  And we need local revolutions. But don’t kid yourself; we need Revolution.

I live in a province in Canada that has for years now elected governments that steal from the people and undermine the collective good, in order to enrich the few already-wealthy.  

I live in a country that was ruled by a man (former Prime Minister Stephen Harper) who now heads a GLOBAL conglomerate (pathetically named, straight out of George Orwell’s vision of the propaganda of tyranny, the International DEMOCRACY Union — look it up), that is directly promoting fascism under the guise of “economic conservatism” in countries all around the world.  The ultra-conservative pretend they are fighting against “one world government” when, in reality, they are literally creating exactly that. 

We are complicit, through our votes that put these people in power.  Based on our feelings about “wedge issues” like gun control, trans rights, abortion, sex education, and our mistaken beliefs in the economic lies we’ve been told about rising tides lifting all boats, we have empowered demagogues who have only their own selfish interests in mind as they undermine our collective power and threaten the freedom and safety of ALL of us.  

Challenge this.  Learn about the Patriarchy and colonial history. Read some Chomsky (“Manufacturing Consent” and “Who Rules The World?” are a good start).  Learn about the history of “democratic” governments ignoring and indeed destroying democracy, to gain more power.  It’s been going on since before you were born, and it’s well-documented by careful, brilliant, thorough scholarship.  Stop listening to the propaganda and spin of YouTube “documentarians” and do the hard work of learning the hard truths.  Aren’t the things you love, worth that much?  

As the machine of Tyranny continues to grow, it will kill our civilization, and reduce to inefficacy all the love of good people who wanted to live in a world of peace and abundance, art and fascination, celebration and compassion and beauty.  

So, look at the dead children, the displaced families, the starving and hopeless masses, when you can.  Use that horror you feel to reach out and connect with the people you love.  AND, get involved.  Sign up for organizations. Read their newsletters.  Feel the pain, and harness the horror to empower yourself to take action.  March in the streets.  Learn the truth and share it.  Put your body on the line, because this IS the fight of our lives.  All of our lives.  

If we don’t get involved, we dishonour our own Ancestors, and we rob our descendants of Life.

You can make a difference.  In fact, it is inevitable.  You make a difference every day, when you choose to either engage in the struggle, or turn away from it.

So engage.  You are strong enough for that.  And your very soul, your heart, your love is violated if you do not.

Maybe you can’t make a direct difference to the Palestinians or Ukrainians or the wild spaces, in an immediate sense.  But you can help change this system.  You can rage against your local governments, who are undermining health care, imperilling education, stealing land for “development”, and privatizing our collective goods.  You can stop voting for politicians who are strengthening the institutions that are killing the world and disempowering people from being able to make a difference.  

This is the simple question to ask yourself, when you are considering where to place your vote and what politics to support.  Do they support the institutions of power that are running this world into the ground and stealing from The People to empower the already-powerful?  Or, are they helping the poor, the disenfranchised, the suffering?  It IS as simple as that.

Get involved where you can, when you can.  And, that makes a difference.  

It is time for revolution.  It is time to confront power, to stand in the face of violence and not back down.  And, that makes a difference.  

It is time to wake up to the lies of the governments that assure us their conservatism is actually for our good. It’s not. It never was. We have half a millennium of colonial history as evidence of that.  We have mass graves under our own Residential Schools, run by the Church and supported by the governments of the time, as evidence of that.  We have rising food prices and less biodiversity and rising rent and increased homelessness and increasing hate, and racism and Native peoples relegated to reservations, as evidence of that.

It is time to stop electing politicians who are controlled by the greedy and psychotic and violent.  So, open your eyes to what masters your politicians ACTUALLY serve.  And vote with your conscience and compassion, not your discomfort of “the other”. AND, when you can, do more than vote, because truly, it’s not enough. The system needs to be changed — dismantled, if I am to be honest, and rebuilt to support the organic wisdom of Nature and the self-governance of communities. We need to demilitarize the world. And we need to strip corporations of their “rights” which they should never have been given in the first place.

And it doesn’t matter, in a sense, what “issues” you choose.  Misogyny, gay rights, environmental protection, anti-poverty work, Indigenous self-governance, anti-racism, sustainable food systems, local community building, helping the physically and mentally challenged, heck, planting a fucking garden — it’s all the same.  It’s all connected.  

Do what you can.  And even if we lose this world, at least die knowing that you did what you could.  Die with the self-respect and nobility of having put yourself on the line, for Everything You Love.  Practice courage.  Share love.  Feel rage. And transform that rage into action for peace.  

And, that makes a difference.

I wish there was more I could do for you, myself, and everyone.  But if nothing else, just know, you are not alone in your suffering and despair.  Many, many people hear the cries of the world, and our numbers are growing.  And I think it’s beautiful, that so many of us care so much.  There IS a bit of hope in realizing how much people care, isn’t there?  

And, that makes a difference.

  4 comments for “169) The despair you are feeling right now:  Dead children, bombed hospitals, the lies of tyranny in a dying world, and the crushing hopelessness of “what the fuck can I do about any of this?”

  1. Anonymous
    October 19, 2023 at 3:03 am

    Gosh Dr. Clara Dolderman, I’ve been waiting for your post through this. When you would share stories about being in climate crisis protests, and cute antidotes during the protests, like when a guy who got stopped with the rest of you and he just wanted to cross the street to get a hot dog, because the police thought he was a protestor. And that he just sat near there for hours and still hadn’t got the hotdog. The PSY101 class and this blog, YouTube have been so healing, and pushes to not be scared to advocate, to understand meaningful techniques to make a difference and still remain healthy and happy. Because it is really happening, those are dead children and people and our hearts need to be broken. I think those were some of the most beautiful words because it was said with such compassion and kindness.

    • claradolderman
      October 19, 2023 at 5:11 am

      Thank you so much for this, “Anonymous”! I really appreciate hearing that this blog, and previous classes, have been meaningful to you. It makes a big difference to me, personally, to know that. I have always, to be honest, struggled with feeling like anything that I’ve said has made any difference. Not that one has to “make a difference” in some notable way, in order to have a meaningful life, because truly, as I was saying in this very post, we make a difference all the time, even in just reaching out and connecting with one person. But knowing that, and feeling its truth in the face of the much-larger-scale atrocities that are happening, can be very difficult, and I definitely lose that faith, regularly.

      I haven’t written for months because of this. I oscillate between “this matters” and “fuck it, I can’t affect anything; these are just words”. ALL the time. But you know, a friend messaged me today, sharing her despair over Palestine, and so I responded. And it hit me in the writing of that letter to one person, that words DO matter. The pen CAN BE mightier than the sword. Ironically, her heartfelt despair inspired me to write again, and now, here you and I are, exchanging these thoughts. (6 degrees of separation eh?) 🙂 …So, thank you, sincerely, for this validation. We all need our moments of true human connection, even in an “Anonymous” online exchange that is clearly heartfelt, to keep us going sometimes.

      And oh my god, that hot dog guy!!!! I’m so glad someone remembers that story! Thank you!! That was indeed quite the moment. I’ll never forget the hilarity mixed with fear when we were being kettled, and the full-gear riot police, with clubs and tear gas weapons and shields and masks and helmets and body armour, looking huge AS FUCK like they recruited a bunch of football linebackers and slapped Halo gear on them, came marching out, clubs banging their shields. Rather intimidating, to say the least.

      So a bunch of us started chanting “DUN dun DUN-DUN dun DUN-DUN dun DUN-DUN” — i.e., the Darth Vader theme, and people started laughing all around us. It was awesome. The hot dog guy (or rather, hot-dog-less guy…) started shouting “Less violence, more hot dogs!!” It was a great moment of giving the ol’ middle-finger to the powers of the state. Fuck their armour; we had heart. I treasure that memory. 🙂

      So again, thank you for sharing a comment here and bringing that memory back for me! You rock, my friend. Cheers

      • Anonymous
        October 23, 2023 at 11:44 pm

        Thank you so much for your reply Dr. Clara Dolderman,

        It does mean so much. Every time comment on your posts, even some of them years ago, you consistently reply back. Even on YouTube, that colour of red lipstick is your colour. That’s takes so much kindness. There is one thing I started practicing and it’s placing my hand on my heart when someone compliments me. I was always had a hard time saying thank you. It is so beautiful gesture that allows me to accept gratitude (whether or not I believe I deserve it, and sometimes I stutter when saying thank you because I want to say nw (because I’m suppose to do that think you’re thank me for). But putting my hand on my heart allows me to stay nonverbal and it communicates my gratitude for someone treating me for such kindness and dignity with their compliment. It took a year for me to come up to you, because you would have lines of student after every class, to thank you for your class. I felt so embarrassed because I was just trying to run and get a decent seat in con hall for my class after you had finished your lecture (from the course I the summer before). You attentively listened and placed your hand on your heart, no had ever done that in my life before. Now I don’t do this for everyone, but when I am touched by someone’s actions I put my hand on my heart.

        Also I was like I just want to carve a R2D2 pumpkin. But then Mark Hamil decided to re-enact what Luke Sykwalker did before episode 7 and I was like wtf, you don’t have to play the character in real life when he signed that letter. He did try to redeem himself, by posting a Gigi Hadid post on Palestine. Then I was like well R2D2 did shut down during episode 7, and left anakin after he joined the dark side, R2D2 has morals. Maybe I can carve a pumpkin and place it in the backyard, so no one can see it hahaha. I needed to carve a pumpkin or something to recharge and make sure I wouldn’t back down from letting my heart break until it’s just atoms, because Palestinians are dying everyday.

        Thank you Dr. Clara Dolderman for giving your students kindness and dignity

        • claradolderman
          October 24, 2023 at 1:22 pm

          Hi “Anonymous” — omg I love this memory of yours so much!! Wow wow wow wow wow!!! Thank you for sharing this. I also struggle, a lot, with compliments, or even ‘thanks’. It’s so shame-triggering when someone expresses a feeling towards me that is so opposed to how I typically have felt about myself. But a former therapist of mine suggested the hand-on-heart action, as a way of both expressing that the compliment/thanks were being received and taken in, as best I could, and also as a self-soothing act for that triggered inner-shame-self that wanted to just shrug it off, or say something overt like I didn’t deserve it, or sidestep it with humour as a defence mechanism. And it works! And it DOES allow the compliment/thanks to “sink in”! And is respectful to the other person. Yay for therapists! 🙂

          I’m so glad to hear those classes had a positive effect on you. That really means so much to me; I honestly can’t even express how much. To be ‘a little personal’ for a moment, I sincerely, sincerely regret that health issues for me disrupted that career, and while I’ve definitely deeply examined my own role and personal responsibility for it, I have to say, I am still quite angry at the Psych Department at U of T (or rather, certain members of it), for the way they turned a mental health crisis that was shared with them in trust and good faith, into a disciplinary issue, thereby exacerbating and amplifying said crisis into a full-blown life collapse. For a Psych dept. especially, to be so obtuse is….well, it still makes my head spin. I have little good to say about key people involved at the time, and if our paths do cross again, I’m afraid I would have nothing kind to say to them. Maybe that’ll change over time; so far, no. (Clearly, I am not enlightened….lol….) But it does break my heart that the WONDERFUL connections I had with students were severed so abruptly. It was personally devastating to me.

          But in any case, perhaps that phase of my life needed to end for my own personal growth (i.e., the Universe works in mysterious ways…). I’ll never know, but at least I can say that I did take the intervening years and work on my own healing and betterment (errrr, and chess…lol…). Still not sure “what to do when I grow up”. But I’m happy….more of the time at least. 🙂

          So…Anonymous, I’m wondering, if you would ever like to cross worlds from this blog to IRL and have a coffee and chat, send me a message at clarionswords@gmail.com. I’ve done this once before and it turned into the loveliest friendship. Cheers!

          P.S. I admit, I don’t understand the Star Wars/pumpkin part of your comment. I guess I’m out of the loop on Mark Hamill’s life these days (and haven’t watched any series other than the Mandalorian….)! 🙂 But at the least, I’m happy to hear that R2D2 stayed true to the path. Omg…..if we ever lose R2D2 to the dark side, then I think all hope is lost.❤️

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