Friday, January 11, 2013

Political Burnout

My most recent facebook status: 'watching the news makes my head want to explode'. My only New Years resolution is to balance the information I take in with images of things that make me happy. Kittens, wildlife, tiny houses, cartoons, faeries, things like that. Images that can transport my mind to a kinder happier place than the world that is shown on television, online and in the news. I feel like if I see one more dead child as the result of a drone attack or a school shooting, or hear one more story about a woman being brutally raped or think about the daily mass destruction of our environment, the planet that sustains our life, I will simply fall into a spiral of despair and give up entirely. I don't know what that would look like, what form of behavior it would take, to give up entirely but I don't think I want to find out either.

A lot of activists I've come to know over the past year or two have become rather withdrawn in recent months. Many of them describe feeling burnt out and I don't blame them. It's a tough and often thankless task. There are rarely immediate results and there are no medals or awards, no pay no fringe benefits. For every victory a new issue seems to come along and settle itself comfortably in the space left behind by the last problem. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and war is endless. And to make matters worse there is a huge segment of the population who has no clue as to what's going on and wonders why people like me bother to walk around chanting carrying signs and canvassing when there is no visible problem to their eyes. There is nothing like the despair one feels when you have spent an entire day in crummy weather walking the streets trying to raise some awareness only to come home turn on the tv and see the news briefly describe a 'handful of college students protesting' when you know damn well there were over 500 people representative of the full spectrum of the American demographic. That pit in your stomach grows even deeper when you realize the next news story is a good 5 minutes dedicated to a sausage recipe.

After as many decades as I have spent on this planet I am intimately familiar with the cycles of enthusiasm, despair and burnout and I have learned to recognize the signs of impending surrender. That is when it is time to let go of strict adherence to political correctness and symbolic sacrifice. There is no room for perfectionism in an imperfect world.

We don't have to have all the answers, we don't have to know intimate details of every horror that is being perpetrated around the world on any given day. Doing this only makes our task seem insurmountable and strips away any sense of power.

Some days you just need a break. You need to laugh. I would say these things are needed every day, in frequent doses. It does not mean you bury your head in the sand and turn your back on your values and ideals. Those will always be there when you are ready to face them. Adding a little fun, or humor or fantasy to life provides the strength and life force to be able to utilize your energy when and where it is needed.

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