I know you are expecting an answer from Chris and I’m sure he’s going to give it to you. But I could really relate to what you are saying. So I decided to answer you. My answer is a letter to Chris which I never sent. Maybe you will find something in it for you.
@Chris: This is long and therefore not meant to be read aloud. It’s more a personal answer to tro5019 than for you reading it in the ROMA. If you would like to read it I’d have no objections. I simply don’t want it to take too much time of the ROMA.
in the intro to Episode 425 with Ben Horton you answered the question, why you haven’t had spoken publicly about Black Lives Matter. You finished your response with the words “Sorry for my long rant.”
Are you kidding me? Apologizing for that? Man, I am totally grateful for that “rant” of yours. I mean it. I am feeling an enormous gratitude. I am touched. I had tears in my eyes when I was listening to it. Tears of a pain and anger very similar to yours. Tears of understanding, empathy, resonance and therefore of a bit relieve, however tiny and fragile it was and is.
As to how your words did have this effect to me, I would like to explain. And, by doing so, I want to try to repay the favor you made me. I tried to keep things a brief as I could, since I know you receive a lot messages, but nonetheless it still is somewhat lengthy.
I am a 52 years old man and German by nationality. Like you, I too have been carrying a similar pain around since I was very young. And like you, I was young, around 12 or 13 and it started by reading a book. It is a similar, but not the same pain, because its topic was and is not that much systemic oppression but the ecological state of affairs. When I learned about overpopulation, resource scarcity, hunger, pollution and already even climate change, I fell into deep despair. Could it be true that I was born into a dying world? It all seemed so hopeless (and still does). At that age I made the decision to never have children. Who would want a future like that for them? When later I started to smoke cigarettes and they warned me about the consequences I thought or even replied: “We’re going to die from some kind of pollution or shit anyway.” My emotional response was despair, not anger, but I think our experiences were comparable.
Chris, you said: “I learned to have that anger to exist in a certain place and not let it out.” I did so as well, with the single important difference, that I didn’t only left it somewhere inside me to exist, but rather suppressed it with denial. I tried to bury it deep down with all the bad consequences of doing so.
It was only within the last year that I became aware of how much desperation and resignation was buried. My current partner, who is more of a political person than I am, insisted discussing the “Fridays For Future” movement with me. Again and again I found myself engaged in debates I usually detest. That the detestation stemmed for the most part from my deeply suppressed frustration was not clear to me then.
But the first real crack in the ice appeared when I saw Greta Thunbergs UN speech:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
I was crying when I heard her. “Finally!” I thought “Finally somebody (like her) is saying it (there)!” I only whished that this has happened when I was her age.
After I heard the speech I started to realize how much I have been shoveling down over the decades. I didn’t feel anger like you did, at least not anymore in the end of my process, an end which happened some time before by 18th birthday. The year when I became 18 was 1986, the year when the Chernobyl reactor blew its radioactive cloud throughout the continent, all the way into my neighborhood. At that time I was already completely disenchanted. The anger, it was replaced by desperation and frustration long ago.
And now, after the speech of that young girl, I was finally in touch again with all this desperation which was paralyzing me for my whole adult life. Chris, I made some really, really bad decisions in my life, of which the worst one was to try to numb myself out. The drug of my choice was alcohol and before I turned 25 I was already addicted to drinking. I am not saying that my desperation about the state of the world was the reason to become addicted. It has to take a lot more than that. But, as I realized now, it nonetheless played an important role in that path, given my general inclination to flee from difficulties instead of facing them.
But I also began to wonder how many people of my age might be stuck with a paralyzing pain similar to mine. Not necessarily addicts as myself but somehow handicapped in a way that might prevent them from undertaking the necessary changes we have to implement if we want to keep our planet sustainable for a little longer. How many may be out there, not only handicapped in that way, but, even worse, are acting the pain out in ways that are harmful to themselves, others, animals, the biosphere and so on and so forth?
When I heard you talking about your decades-old anger I felt confirmed with my assessment. Wasn’t here someone speaking of my kind of desperation regardless that he was talking of anger about oppression instead of desperation because of the ecological crisis? After all, these topics can’t be separated from each other and are merely different expressions of the same underlying societal insanity.
Of course I am not implying that you are handicapped by your anger or even harming. I only know your podcast persona and even if I would know you personally this would be something I would never say. But I am hearing sentences like “I learned to have that anger to exist in a certain place and not let it out. And sometimes when I let out a little bit, it feels like I’m tearing off a scab and the bleeding might never stop.” I wish people could acknowledge this in the way you did. I only learned to do so a few month ago. Thanks again, Chris, for your words. It feels so good to know that there’s somebody else out there feeling like this.
Besides the relieve of hearing a like-minded voice speaking, your openness encouraged me to finally proceed with an idea which lurked around in my mind ever since I first reconnected with my desperation. When I stood there, looking out the window, listening to my inner voice speaking of despair, wondering how many people might feel the same, I was thinking of founding a group in my town where people can share those feelings. Something along the line “My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization”. Perhaps not exactly like Glendinning’s book title, but close to. A place where people can have the chance heal a little bit from paralyzing frustration. To heal as Carse describes it in “Finite And Infinite Games”: not to be cured from one’s illness, but to be healed with one’s illness by touch. It probably wouldn’t be a place where people are taking immediate action but rather could (hopefully) liberate themselves into a mindset which enables them to then take action and play.
The upside of this could be, that if it’s already too late for any action to be effective, we could at least die together more peacefully. You know, I am not very optimistic that humanity will really solve its issues. But if we are about to go under let’s at least live the rest in dignity, with liberated souls and less burdened spirits and then die a good death. And maybe, who knows, by trying to do so, save ourselves en passant. That’s the only hope I manage to come up with now. But before having reconnected to my desperation I wasn’t event able to get this “hope”.