Toby Sharpe shares a step by step guide to healing the world after the shitstorm that was 2016...
Hey millennials! Feeling sad? You have good reason. The past twelve months sucked. For you, 2016, the year most comparable to a garbage-fire, is finally over. As I sit and write this piece, still trapped in 2016’s wicked grasp, I look fondly back to 2012. Back then, we thought a comet would incinerate us in a Mayan apocalypse. The world seemed so much less scary, enough that we could worry about supernatural or cosmic threats. Now, everything has changed. Our world seems to be ending in a more mundane, and yet more malevolent, way.
Our Earth is not what Tomorrow’s World and The Powerpuff Girls said it would be when we were growing up. An orange virus has taken over America, endangering the lives and livelihoods of minorities, immigrants, and the world at large. Tories ineptly rule Britain. We live under austerity, a programme condemned by the UN for the way it actively contributes to the suffering and deaths of the poor and disabled.
Student loans dog the youth. The right-wing lies to the populace and there is no charismatic left-wing popular leader to put on our ‘HOPE’ posters. Refugees are treated appallingly on our soil and abroad. More and more young people are growing up in poverty. Our air is growing poisonous. Our politicians are not stopping climate change. Our world will heat up, the ice caps will dwindle, the oceans will reclaim us.
You are right to be afraid. Your feelings of loss and panic are not unreasonable. However, if we fall too deep into despair, we will lose. This world can make you feel hopeless, and can convince that your voice is meaningless. You might read this and think “well... my voice IS useless, I voted Remain / Labour / Clinton and look how that turned out!” You’re not wrong. Things didn’t work out how we wanted them to: there are many reasons why. People felt apathetic. People felt disempowered. People felt useless. I feel that way. I am not trying to invalidate your pain; I know how infuriating it can be when people tell you to snap out of your suffering, or to sort yourself out with some easy fixes.
In the grand scheme of things? You are not useless. Sure: you are not powerful. You are somewhere in the middle. We are not as special as we were told growing up. Your voice does not mean a lot. It means a little. However, our voices are louder when we shout them together. Therein our power lies. We cannot let the aged, the uninformed, and the mendacious right-wing elite doom our generation and those to come. We cannot feel that we’ve had ‘enough of experts’. We cannot hate one another. This article is a small war-cry for the future that we can grow. Here are some things that you can and should do to live for a better year and a better world.
If you have money to give, there are organisations in the UK in need of donations. Definitely look into whether the government has defunded your local rape crisis centre, and find out whether shelters for the homeless and the abused need funding or help in your area. If you are particularly worried about the effects Trump’s reign will have over the lives of vulnerable Americans, then there are a number of groups that you can donate to online from the UK which explicitly protect the rights of minorities, from supporting immigrants and refugees to protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare.
If you don’t have money to spare, but want to help charities and other organisations, take the time to consider who needs your help and where your time could best be spent. Find charities in your area. If you have skills to share, now is the time. If you are a good teacher, or if you’re good with languages, or computers, you could donate some of your time and talent to organisations or people who need them, particularly refugees.
Children are going to grow up thinking it is okay to be a bigot, to scorn minorities, and to treat women’s bodies like chew-toys and playgrounds. If you have or know kids, make sure they know that the Orange Devil is not a role model.
Call people out
We’re all going to need to call people out a lot more. We are so often worried about causing a scene, about seeming angry, as we make our voices heard. The right wing does not worry about how its opinions come across. It yells and people listen – one is often forced to hear what is being shouted.
If you have certain kinds of privilege – if you’re male, or straight, etc. – use your privilege to fight for others. Your comfortable silence makes you complicit. It is time to challenge your friends, your acquaintances, your lovers. If you think liking the occasional Facebook post makes you an ally to the cause, it is time to do more. Use your position to amplify the voices of the marginalised.
There's most likely an old can of beans you keep forgetting to turn into chilli. Donate them. Those jeans you considered maybe turning into jean-shorts eventually? Donate them. Convert our cultural obsession with decluttering into a way of helping people around you. If you don’t have much of your own to give, see if you can collect donations from neighbours or friends to hand in on their behalf.
Join a political party
I know you think they’re all evil, all bureaucratic, and all useless. They will continue to be – if people who think like that don’t get involved.
Stop ignoring homeless people
Give them your change. If you don’t have any coins, at least say hello, or nod as you pass. Stop propagating the myth that everyone on the street is lying about their situation. Stop pretending that we are not all just people.
Be vocal about the good you do
I know it’s embarrassing. It may not be cool to announce that you have bonded with the old lady down the road, or that you’ve just had a tough day working at the local centre for refugees. But people need to know that good work is going on, and that they too could and should be doing good.
Love people. Be there for people. Listen to people who are suffering. If someone in your life is sad and you know they’re sad, don’t just hide them from your newsfeed. You don’t have to be a therapist or a priest to give someone some time to talk. If you don’t feel ready to talk, you can just be in the same room as someone. Send them an emoji. Make them a cup of tea. These are dark times. Friendship is more important than ever. It is so easy to brighten someone’s day, even when the world seems lacking in light.