A couple of weeks ago a learned, well travelled friend with an acute legal mind sent me a brief message. She was in-transit, leaving a forum in Hong Kong.
“The world has become a scary place,” she wrote.
These few words hit me in the proverbial guts. For said friend to admit such a thing – given her travails across the planet advocating for our right to free expression and association, privacy, open access and transparent governance of the internet, generally within the cross-hairs of so much that ails us – made fear of the world so much more personal.
For the first time in my life I too am afraid. I am afraid of the kind of world we now inhabit. I am afraid of the uncertain future my daughter and granddaughter seek to flourish in. I am afraid for the myriad communities in fragile environments from Sarawak to India I have known, countless now their homelands threatened by forceful removal or the devastating consequences of climate change. What my friend’s message drove home to me is the pervasiveness of that fear; it’s ability to cripple even the most hardy of us.
But one need not heed fear’s carrion call. There are many means to rail and defend oneself against it. Do we become idle observers of the calamitous events increasing the world over, or do we do something meaningful about it?
I can not claim to know what works for the many, but perhaps for the few we need only look beyond the limitations we may have fortified ourselves within. It may be as simple as reading more, walking more, spending much more time with family and friends until a unique means of defence becomes apparent. I have found mine. It nests within fear itself.
Naomi Klein describes this time in human history, a crescendo of global corruption and environmental calamity, as our greatest opportunity for change, seeking a dynamic paradigm shift in how we live on and with planet Earth. The problem, vast as it is, has the potential to catapult us into creative and active means to address our concerns now. With that in mind and on our heels it may well be possible to look into the torment of fear for retaliatory means.
It is the experience of fear stifling so much good work that drives me to keep at it; to muster all one can, day-in and day-out, to reveal the tender, the sublime, the unseen and unheard that thrives still in myriad ways in the suburbs, the jungles, deserts and remote villages we inhabit.
It is to these moments, to these incalculable fragments of experience and their ripple effects that I dedicate myself to; to both examine what remains for many of us to learn from and what will survive for future generations to thrive on.
Fear may paralyse, or it may mobilise. Best we respond with knowledge, compassion and creativity than the bestial mechanisms fear thrives on.