The best thing about 2016 is that it's not okay

Last night I randomly woke up at about 3am, and made the foolish mistake of checking on the state of the US election. It quickly became apparent that Trump was going to win. I didn't sleep much after that.

My mind couldn't let go of how appalling it seemed. How a man of such dubious character could garner so much support. How a man of such retrograde policies could find so many backers. How this man… this man… could become one of the most powerful in the world.

I didn't sleep much because of thinking about what progress will be lost – symbolically first, then politically. About the braying, arrogant, voices of the vilest parts of the internet – the sexist, racist, antisemitic, abusive, trolling arseholes – and how they will have been given greater strength and confidence. That they will have received the message that they are acceptable now, that they are powerful now, that they are normal now. About the loss of the US supreme court, to the right wing and reactionary, for another generation. About the threats to end NATO, de-fund the fight against climate change, to restriction press freedom. The world changing into a place that is less safe, less progressive, less tolerant, less wise than it was before.

I've been feeling tired, sad, angry and frustrated all day. Which is not ideal circumstances in which to write a blog post. I'd normally bother with issues political, but I spent all day trying to find a place in my mind where I could hold this. A place where it didn't just feel bad and wrong and a step in a dark and dangerous direction. A way of thinking about it that didn't just make everything appear bleak.

I'm not sure I've succeeded, but I have at least found thoughts that give a point to this, for me. And it was a spiritual notion that did it, so I'll write about it here.

I stumbled across this Tumblr post, and it made me realise something really important – the best thing about Trump and Brexit and the whole mess of 2016 is this: it means we can't think it's all okay.

It's never been okay. Civilisation has been a mess from the start. But we've been getting better – we're more compassionate, less sexist, less racist and more open-minded than we've ever been. In many parts of the world we've done a pretty good job of blunting the destructive forces of nature – there are fewer things trying to eat us on a daily basis, and fewer chances of dropping dead by 30. The progress of the last few decades might have lead us to start thinking that maybe sexism isn't that big a deal any more, maybe racism is on the way out, maybe inequality isn't that big a deal given that everyone is basically doing okay. The best thing about 2016 it shoves a very clear sign in our face and says – it isn't okay. It's never been okay.

There's a massive amount of work still to do. There's a huge amount of hate, anger, fear, suspicion, close mindedness and ignorance in the world. We see America elect trump, we see the UK punching itself in the face through Brexit, and we cannot deny that. We cannot sit back and go 'things are going pretty well, most people are fine now'. Because it's clearly not true.

The above post, which probably reads as pretty bizarre, really brought this to mind. I find it interesting that more people are using the language of the Gnostics to express how fucked up the world is, but I understand why, given how good an analogy it can be. But the post also did something else – a huge amount of anger and frustration has fuelled Trumps success, just as it fuelled Brexit. And that anger is coming from people who are hurting – as that's where all anger comes from. Pain turns to anger, and anger turns to votes for someone who'll fuck shit up and maybe do it in a way that benefits you just a little bit. But if not, at least he'll fuck up the stuff that's done nothing for you for so long.

This is not to excuse them – there are many good ways to express that frustration, many positive things that can be done with it, many opportunities along the way to channel that energy into doing some good, into embracing those around us, directing change to a positive end rather than resisting it, finding better people to be our voice and shift the system. But I can at least empathise with anger.

People are angry because it's not okay. The inequality is not okay. The destruction of communities is not okay. The tolerance of prejudice is not okay. The misogyny and narrow-mindedness are not okay. The loss of homes and well paying jobs is not okay. The system isn't okay – it's broken. Clinton would have done a hell of a lot less damage Trump will, and hopefully she would have done some good too. But she might have persuaded us that things were actually going along okay, when really they are far from it. No one has done enough good, made enough of a change, offered enough help. The sexism, racism, inequality, lost hope, unaddressed bigotry and lost direction are real, are powerful, and are not being addressed. At least with Trump and Brexit we can't for a moment pretend that there's no work that needs doing.

But more than this… As Mr Six says, this is a rescue operation.  It has to be. There is no enemy.

This is a rescue mission

Because we can – and must – work at the inequality, we can try to push forward with progressive policies, we can still campaign and argue and educate. We can try to fix the economy, and try to reach out to broken groups. We can shout down the bigots, shut down the trolls, turn away from the destructive arguments – and yes we must. But it still won't make everything okay.

It won't be okay because life is hard, because everyone you love will sicken and die, because you're fundamentally alone, because you aren't special, because life has no meaning, and because you can never truly succeed. And these 'truths' mean at the heart of all of us is a void, a hole, a pain, through which more pain and hurt and anger will always flow. The injustice and inequality of existence will inevitably flow through into the society around us. How could it not?

Only…

Only these are lies. Or at least, these are mistakes we have made. Self evident mistakes, so clear and obvious, yet mistakes none-the-less. We're wrong, we're delusional, and therefore we hurt. And therefore we create a world of hurt.

This is a rescue mission. Your first obligation is to rescue yourself. Your second to help others rescue themselves. There is no enemy – just others who, like you, are currently lost. Perhaps they are more lost, or more prone to thrash around in their pain, more like to take the injustice they feel has been turn and turn it into vileness they pour upon their fellow man… but they are just lost.

This is a rescue mission. We must work to save ourselves. We cannot pretend it is okay, because it is very, very clearly not. We must work for smarter politics, educate the ignorant, show love to those who hate, not allow bigotry to go unchallenged. We must do all of these things to create a better world.

But it won't be enough. It's still not okay. Unless we address the fundamental mistake we carry in our perception about the nature of reality there will always be injustice, selfishness and pain.

The truth is nothing but good news – you aren't alone, you are special, life has meaning, and death… death is just a mistake you've made. You don't think the sun dies when it sets, do you? It just goes somewhere else for a while. Like that. Only better.

This is a rescue mission – we have to wake up. Awakening is everything you've been looking for. Enlightenment is real, and achievable in this lifetime. Everything looks broken – but it's not. You just have to see it as it really is. So you hurt, and sometimes that pain causes you to lash out. We all do.

Every time you see Trump's smug, self-satisfied face, just remember – he is the embodiment of ultimate failure. The embracing of anger, fear, and the material world, and thinking they can be used to achieve anything other than more loss and pain. Embracing the rejection of other and thinking it can lead to a safe, sane, society. Embracing the idea that the way to make things okay is to hate and shout and condemn and despise and reject.

It is the appearance of success that is the ultimate failure.

But we can use that ultimate failure as our motivation for success. 2016, the year we could no longer pretend it's going to be okay, is the year we can start to put things right. It isn't a war, it's a rescue mission – we save ourselves, and then we help them – and then pain can stop. You can't punch someone into becoming a better person, you can't use anger to reduce anger, you can't troll a troll into silence. Fix the fundamental mistake we've made, and everything else falls into place.

The world is not okay because you're not okay – for everyone's sake, wake up. Enlightenment is real, it's achievable in this life-time, how to do it is well understood, instructions are freely available – do the damn work.

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