Tetchy Tuesday

I’m a big fan of Thankful Thursday as an idea, and of practicing gratitude, but I’ve come to the conclusion this isn’t working. We need to stop with the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mentality, and we need to put militant ingratitude on the political, and spiritual agenda.
Talk of scroungers and the underserving, alongside talk of hard working families keeps us running on the treadmill. If we dare to say we are unhappy with our lives, we run the risk of being called ungrateful, or unreasonable. We may be accused of feeling entitlement, of not working ahrd enough, we may be told we are scroungers and frauds. This is keeping us quiet. We keep our heads down and our mouths shut, and we soldier on, stoically, trying to maintain some dignity. It isn’t working.
We practice gratitude. We tell ourselves that like attracts like and if we think positive thoughts, good things will come to us. Then, when that doesn’t work, (sooner or later, it mostly doesn’t unless you are independently wealthy) we feel guilt and shame. We weren’t positive enough, or grateful enough, we did not have good enough karma. This keeps us quiet and stops us from protesting about the shit.
I’ve learned a thing during my small meltdown this week. I’ve learned that a lot of people are struggling, hurting, frightened, exhausted, miserable, ill and do not feel able to speak up. My owning these things made it easier to admit, for a lot of other people, that they too were close to having had enough and wondering where to send the resignation form. It’s not easy to resign from being a grownup. Now, if you think you are the only person who is failing to be stoical and hard working enough, you’ll keep calm and carry on and try to fake it. If you know that the vast majority of people around you are feeling the same way, it becomes obvious this is not personal failing, this is a sick and broken system that is grinding people into the dust.
We can change that. All of the problems that exist could be tackled, with enough political will. All of the things that are hurting us could be changed, but to get to that point, we have to stop co-operating and start protesting. We have to stop being grateful that we have jobs, and start being bloody ungrateful for having to work fifty hour weeks and still not being able to afford new clothes. We have to stop being grateful that we’re fit enough to work and start being ungrateful if we spend our Sundays in a morass of misery about the looming Monday hell. We have to start saying no, and enough. If enough of us do this, we can create change.
So what I’m asking for is this – own the problem. Name it. Talk about it. Tell people if you are exhausted, depressed and struggling. Tell people if your financial situation terrifies you, or your work culture is making you sick. Tell people if you see others in the same mess. Talk about it.
There will be bumps. There are a lot of people in denial out there and admitting to the problem may make others angry, resentful and fearful. Try to be patient with them, they are terrified. Some of them of course are making a lot of money out of the suffering of the majority, and those few do not want things to change. They will have to get over that. We need to end exploitation. We need to end the parasitic culture that puts most of the world’s wealth in the hands of less than a hundred people. We have to practice ingratitude, with total spiritual dedication, and we have to be ungrateful about the right things. Don’t blame the disabled person next door, or your partner, or the immigrant family across the road – because when you do that, you support the system and you oil its cogs. Blame the system, and the people who put it there, and start asking how we can change everything.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Tetchy Tuesday

  • Catherine Crayton

    This is how I feel and keep trying to voice, if we are all in this together…change can and will happen. We also gain the relief of knowing we are not alone. I am sharing this, thank you!!!!!!!

  • angharadlois

    Hear hear!

    I am not a big fan of the idea that we attract good things into our lives through positive thinking, and vice versa (the misappropriation/misuse of “karma” is one of my pagan bugbears!). Gratitude, for me, is a way of touching base with the most important things in life – a loving partnership, a home (in which, like plenty of other rented flats, there are also lots of things for which I am definitely *not* grateful), strong friendships, the good parts of my job. It is not a way of trying to sugar-coat the bitter pills in life, in the hope that by swallowing them I can become more positive and attract better luck next time. Some of the hard stuff just needs to be endured, but that doesn’t make it easy; some of it needs to be changed, not tolerated. In some ways, the idea that failing to look on the bright side means we deserve our difficulties is just as unhelpful a doctrine as, say, the Victorian chain-of-being idea that the poor should not try to rise above the social position which God has allocated them, or the Hindu caste system (an aspect of karma which seems curiously absent from most new age writing).

    Having spent most of the Winter either asleep, crying with exhaustion or dragging myself through the working day, I can say fairly honestly that although I am grateful for the integrity and good humour of my colleagues, and the sense of purpose I get from my job, I am not grateful for the pattern of my working day. Commuting is more than just a drag, I have actually come to think it is one of the great quiet evils of our times. It destroys communities, dehumanises fellow travellers, propels us into an unbalanced way of life, creates unrealistic expectations… If there were not such a widespread acceptance of commuting as a way of life, I think we might see jobs distributed more evenly across the country, with more people heading home for a good nourishing meal and a break at lunchtimes, as I used to when I worked in Spain.

    I do not feel grateful for getting home 12 hours after I leave in the morning, and spending most of the intervening time inside under artificial lights. This is not a situation I have attracted through my negativity; it has become a societal norm for an awful lot of people in employment. There is not much I can change at the moment, but everything I can do to change it, I will do. And it all starts by standing up and saying clearly “this is not right!”

    Sorry for the rant, I think I needed it!

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for the rant, we all needed it. Totally agree. The eological cost of the commute, the social cost, the personal cost – all too high, and in normlising it we’ve made it very hard to resist. But, just to name it as a not-ok thing is a powerful start, and enables other people to question it too. When we name and own things it an get easier to see which are the evils to endure (like aging) and which are not inevitable.

      • angharadlois

        Well, feeling somewhat galvanised by this, I have found a way to make it possible to cycle the 15 miles to work 🙂 – quite an undertaking, and probably not for every day, but it’s a good start!

    • Nimue Brown

      Wow, that is an epic choice to make. You either are, or will be a good deal fitter than me! Hope it works well for you, I guess even if that’s an only in good weather call, it may leave you feeling more in control and more able to choose and that has to be a good thing.

      • angharadlois

        Will be – or hope to be! Your blog posts really got me thinking. I spent so much of the Winter feeling trapped in compromises that took me further from what I believe in; it’s nice to think I could slip the net – on some days, at least – and do things my own way! I am so grateful to have a bike, a reasonable (if slightly neglected) level of physical fitness, and a fairly progressive council who have turned old railway lines and towpaths into well-maintained public rights of way.

  • flameinthesnow

    Hear, hear. This–especially from a woman’s point of view, because it often becomes her burden–to create “positivity,” willy nilly.

  • Argenta

    I agree so much with what you say here, but I have a “but”: I used to try to talk about things I found wrong, especially about my work, but am currently too tired to go on. The reason is this: I am a rather quiet person, with a small social circle. It is extremely discouraging when those few people keep insisting that I am too sensitive, too childish, too irrational, or too lazy if I speak out. They all manage to grind away and do not complain — so why can’t I? It is not easy to be labelled the negative person, especially by the few people I can actually count on in my life.

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