Guilt and creative challenges

We may feel guilty about not undertaking other forms of activism, we may feel our art *should* be able to do more and be frustrated that it can’t. The climate is not a good one in which to be a sensitive and creative person.

This is another case of knowing something with my head and having a lot of trouble feeling it with the rest of my body. There is more to activism than focused noise-making. We can’t spend our lives being against things, and fighting, that’s exhausting. We also have to imagine, and build. However, I think a big part of why I’m struggling on this score right now relates to another point I raised in the original post: Angry, hate-laden, nihilistic attitudes are everywhere.

I can’t imagine anything powerful enough to challenge that. How do you break through to people who are only invested in not giving a shit? Or people who are dedicated to hate? Which leaves me feeling I have no choice but to give up on a whole swathe of people – many of them young and shaped by campaigns of deliberate misinformation. I can’t make myself responsible for dealing with that, even though the question of how to respond to right wing radicalisation has been on my mind a lot for months now. And if we don’t all take responsibility for dealing with it, what happens?

My advice to people dealing with conflicts in Pagan circles has always been, ‘don’t fight them, simply put an alternative out there.’ When Pagan groups clash – over ways of working, ideas, use of spaces, and over egos, nothing good comes of feeding the conflict. Stepping back and simply offering an alternative is better in all ways than running some kind of hate campaign against people who are ‘doing it wrong’ from your perspective. Maybe many of our current cultural issues are the same. Calling out criminal behaviour – racism, sexism and abuse – is always the right way to go. The rest of the time, offering an alternative…

No one is obliged to care, or feel compassion, or be generous. No one is obliged to value the things I value. No one is required to worry about ecocide. If I want people to care about the things I care about, I need to lure them in, and I know that hard campaigning of any sort often doesn’t work. In fact it only works when addressing power – eg petitioning a government. Feeling guilty because I cannot save people from themselves, and I cannot save the rest of us from the consequences of that… isn’t working.

I am experiencing bouts of paralysis in face of all the hate and misery in the world. Maybe I need to deal with this by making more space to work through my own negativity – my own rage, fear, resentment, frustration. Not by attacking other people, but by processing this for myself so I can find a far side of it and come up with something better.

As strategies go, this one is still very much a work in progress, but ‘in progress’ is a good deal better than ‘frozen’ so, I’ll take it for now.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. 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

7 responses to “Guilt and creative challenges

  • Rick Finney

    I see a lot of hardness around now, too: a kind of fascism of the spirit on both the left and right. This does shrink the space in which goodhearted people can make a difference, for sure. But I think that space does still exist.

  • robinpoet8

    reclaiming being, instead of blindly doing which it appears the worlds economic system is based on. Also peace and quiet are what we should let more into our lives. there is so much energy being culverted into the heat of aimless maddening information. I guess all the hate and anger is a sign that something deep in our culture is transforming, because this is how it goes when new life seeks to emerge a destruction of the old occurs, as in our stomaches when we break down the food to release its forces to sustain our body, but if we are releasing this aggressive energy without any direction or containment then we harm the world around us. I think we could do with less of that. So back to being, and cultivating peace and quiet, because that seems to be almost radical in a world that derides and bullies anyone for standing around not being active with a capital A and not producing some kind of noise to please the machine crankers.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Destruction of the old comes before building the new. It does create turmoil at least as long as we can not yet see what will replace it. Life feeds off of death and it always has. No death, then there would be no life. Ebb and flow is the pattern of creation.

    Meanwhile, become the type of person that you would like to live around, be your own best friend. Work to create laughter, and give encouragement where you can, show what you think is possible by what you do daily.

    Pick your battles carefully, and know when to back off, put down the load, recharge yourself, and heal yourself. Otherwise, you will burn out, and be able to do nothing.

    No, you do not have to do it all , that is save the world all by yourself. Just do the part that you can with the resources that you have to work with.

    Nobody can expect more from any of us. Neither should we expect it of ourselves, nor of anyone else.

    • Nimue Brown

      thank you, as ever, for the sound advice. We are in the midst of something enormous – birth and death – and impossible to see what this mess will become, but that doesn’t mean its bound to be awful. Must hold that thought.

  • lornasmithers

    I’m nodding along with a lot of this. In my experience fighting against and telling others what (I think) they should do doesn’t work and just becomes draining and demoralising. Thus both in writing and life I attempt to ‘show not tell’. Yes, overcoming the guilt about not doing what we think others think we should be doing is a big step – something I’ve been working through over the past few months too!

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