Some very intense and challenging conversations have been going in my community recently, as I’m sure they are in just about every community these days. In the face of the many crisises unfolding around us at this time, it can be difficult to hold compassion and a sense of hope for humanity. It is not an overstatement to say that as an ever-evolving society and a species, we are in treacherous and uncharted waters, and we’re going to have to pull together if we’re going to survive the storm raging about us. Everywhere you look, dramatic change and upheaval are taking place throughout the globe. Record numbers of people are on the move as refugees, and innocent people are needlessly dying at the hands of hate groups who are ever increasingly vomiting out their vitriol in both words and actions. Ecosystems are being laid to waste, the climate is changing in ways we haven’t experienced since the receding of the last Ice Age, and we are observing the 6th mass-extinction event in the Earth’s history, almost entirely of our own making. We have never witnessed such scale of disaster as what we are going through at this time- at least not by conventional historical accounts, a rabbit hole I won’t even venture into right now. At such times, it’s very easy to succumb to varying levels of fear-induced visions of reality and the future, some of which may have some validity, and others not so much.
Fear is a tool, a very old tool. It’s something presumably every living creature that could run, swim, or fly has utilized to survive. But like any other tool, it’s important when encountering fear to be aware of when we’re using the tool, and when we’re being used by it. If you witness the degree to which we can become addicted to our phones or any other form of technology, it’s not surprising to realize that on a certain level we’re addicted to our fear. Certainly we evolved knowing a fair amount of it, being hairless, clawless, fangless, slow monkeys with big heads. And as we became more imaginative, not only did we develop the capacity to create new things and ways of expressing ourselves, but we also developed new ways of scaring ourselves. Some of those ways were very real, usually involving a sharp object and evolving from there, and some of those ways were more or less in our head. Feeling fear in the face of an angry foe is generally a pretty healthy thing to feel, how you respond to said threat may or may not be healthy depending on the context. Feeling fear because of stories that we tell ourselves likewise can hold both healthy and unhealthy implications. Being afraid watching a horror flick is completely normal- for those who engage in such things, I personally do not because I prefer not to dip into fear more than is necessary. Watching the news can also be a frightening experience, and many people choose to not tune into it for that very same reason. But in the case of paying attention to the story of our species, which I think is necessary for our survival, it’s important to discern truth from fiction, and not be lead by the chain into the intricate and deceptive webs of story that fear weaves for us.
Right now, there are masterful story tellers spinning half-truths and bare-faced lies, to convince us to be afraid of things which actually have no merit on one hand, and to ignore or forget about truly frightening events that threaten most of the biosphere on the other hand. They want us to believe that the millions of people fleeing for their lives, leaving everything behind, and facing immense dangers on the way to a foreign land may be a vector for terrorism. Yet it has been clearly show that more often than not, the terrorist is some one from our own country. For people of color, it may even be government officials who are the source of terror. And while the task of taking in thousands of refugees is daunting for any country, simply from a logistics perspective, there is also the perception that thousands of Muslims coming into the West will somehow open us to further atrocities in the future, and that they’ll end up changing our way of life. Though the political landscape is certain to change as refugees integrate into Western society, the amount of homegrown terror from their ranks is somewhat dependent on how we receive and welcome them into our world. It’s important to keep in mind that the people fleeing war-torn Syria and other parts of the Middle East, are largely fleeing Islamic-identifiying extremists. If the refuge they seek in Western countries is welcoming and hospitable, it’s unlikely that any of them would at a later point become the people which they ran from and turn on the people who offered them safe harbor at their greatest need. Welcoming refugees isn’t just the the compassionate and humane thing to, it makes good strategic sense as well. Terrorists operate by sowing fear, it’s their most powerful weapon one might argue. Daesh knows the wave of refugees is yet one more tool of fear they can leverage against us. So if we respond to that wave with a fierce compassion and provide the refugees with a security that has utterly vanished in their homeland among extremists, a major piece of Daesh’s plan will be undone.
At the same time, the people who would have us be afraid of refugees, namely some of our own cowardly, bigoted politicians, media, and religious leaders are the same people who would have us think of climate change as a made-up threat, and dive head-long into further consumption of fossil fuels in order to line their pockets with more money. Not only is the run-away train of climatic upheaval we’ve set into motion undermining our fundamental structures for living on this planet, it also is a driving force in conflict and the refugee crisis globally, particularly in places like the Middle East where water was scarce to begin with. So if we ignore the fear of our own demise through environmental destruction, while focusing on a ill-perceived fear made up by warmongering xenophobes, we run the deadly risk of becoming victim to both. Where as if we can get clear on what is and is not actually a threat, we have a chance of being able to navigate the tumultuous times ahead and can respond to the myriad problems facing us in a ways that address all of them, often times with the same action. The looming storm of climate change and waves of refugees coming toward us are interconnected. While the waves may seem overwhelming (their numbers are actually quite small compared to the host populations), it’s ultimately the storm that will sink us if we choose to cower in fear below decks.
This entry was posted on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 at 19:04
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