By Jesse D. Palmer
In the face of climate collapse, brutal wars, rising fascism and increasing economic inequality — when are we going to walk out on our meaningless rat-race jobs that are killing the Earth, enriching our enemies and crushing our spirits? Let’s stop succumbing to the narrative of doom — that it is too late for everything lovely and wonderful about our lives and the world. Even if it is too late, wouldn’t we rather spend our last days struggling for a world worth living in? We’re still alive now, which means we still have choices about how we’ll spend today. How we direct our energy matters in terms of whether our lives are meaningful, focused and pleasurable — and also because directing energy towards those we love, our communities and the earth is our only shot at making the collapses we’re experiencing less dreadful, and perhaps even positive. When systems no longer serving human happiness are cast into chaos or collapse, better solutions can take their place if we build them.
Okay — let me confess — I want to see a silver lining in the dark clouds, but it’s a struggle. I feel overwhelmed by the violence in Gaza and the grim climate news. Temperature records keep getting shattered but fossil fuels are still dominant. Why can’t people stop killing each other? I don’t want to make a Slingshot issue without some hope or inspiration that somehow we shall overcome… but am I just pretending?
Life and society don’t have to be like this — we shouldn’t accept this shit. There’s nothing terrible about human beings — rather we are curious, creative, caring, fun-loving and passionate. Without the chains our systems and our technologies have forged, our lives could be full of wonder, pleasure and joy. We gotta avoid sorting people into clumsy boxes — oppressors and oppressed — which objectify both. Dehumanization is what allows us to harm and kill each other.
What is wrong are systems that ignore human values, desires and the Earth. Black and white thinking over-simplifies complex problems — the solutions we need require admitting we don’t know all the answers and being able to stay present with the gray areas.
Writing articles is a form of self-therapy – working out the things that are bugging me such as this floating sense of doom. I want to be as hopeful as the Slingshotcharacter I channel in my articles — but the past few weeks I’ve been spending way too much time checking the internet stoking my anxiety but not doing much concrete other than publishing this zine. Is this what burnout feels like?
Our psychological standpoint matters – is the glass half empty or half full? Not just in terms of whether we feel happy, but in terms of our perception about the situation we’re in, which informs the solutions that seem possible. If we focus on doom, it can put us in a hopeless, isolated and fearful place where we are unable to imagine solutions or a world of abundance and possibilities. What if we start with love and the connected emotion we get while being part of a community? We can acknowledge suffering that is happening in the world and the possibility that we’re doomed but still see that there are billions of people living lives with a measure of happiness, freedom, pleasure and a future — and fight like hell for that life for as many people as possible — including ourselves.
And yet — I can’t seem to write this article. It feels futile to keep writing Slingshot articles condemning the system while the world around me gets worse and worse.
Is this zine its own form of rat race?
Constant exposure to our screens feels like it is pushing more people towards a doom orientation — whereas if we based our mood on our lived experiences that aren’t usually so terrible, we might feel more positive. Violence, crisis and catastrophe get more clicks than day-to-day life. It is impossible for internet algorithms to represent millions of people waking up in peace, eating oatmeal, kissing our loved ones, getting the kids off to school, and breathing sweet air while feeling the warm sun.
These horrors are not our inevitable destiny. Horrible lives and horrible deaths are pathologies – all of us individually struggle to avoid these terrible outcomes, so let’s struggle together to create social structures that value life and dignity.
I felt so stuck with this article that I said “fuck it” and took work off to go to the beach at Lands End in San Francisco. I don’t want Slingshot to make me feel trapped in a rut. Maybe I should quit and enjoy myself while I still can?
As I stood in the icy water, I started thinking how when I’m in a grind, my emotions turn towards hopelessness and doom and writing an inspirational article feels fake. For a couple of hours, I just watched the waves and let my mind go blank. I started feeling a little better and I laughed at how hard it is for me to just exist. I feel like I have to justify myself by doing stuff, but constantly keeping busy feeds my sense of doom…
When there’s an earthquake, war, fire, hurricane or flood, people spring to action not only to help themselves but also neighbors and strangers. We’re in that moment now — let’s move beyond social paralysis even though the global scale of climate change, capitalism and war feel overwhelming. It is okay to admit we’re not sure what to do or what will help — but do everything we can anyway. Let’s be on the life team — the joy team — the freedom team. Not just in terms of what we fight for — but the way we live our lives and the feeling in our hearts and heads. There’s a lot of reasons to feel doomed right now, but perhaps the darkest moment is before the dawn.
Maybe I should have titled this article “Don’t read this article! — go to the beach.” Is keeping us busy so we’re psychologically unable to imagine or fight for our liberation part of the way the system maintains itself? The system’s imperatives penetrate our consciousness and our activist projects. Standing on the beach is the opposite of drudgery — it feeds a sense of possibility, energy, tenderness and oneness with other humans and creatures.
To avoid burning out so we can stay engaged and present with radical projects, we have to balance all the work with something beyond ourselves and beyond the rat race — the beach, the sky, love, creativity, fun, life.