The Losing Game: Writing Acceptance 2/? 2020
Hey pals! In the vein of taking my lessons from last year, go where you're wanted, I submitted to a place that had already accepted me. And I sent out a piece I have nervous feelings about.
I've been in a real swamp of grief reading about all of the news in the world. I'm sure many of us are in that swamp. I'll be doing my life and just burst into tears about the synagogue attacks. I burst into tears Hong Kong, I burst into tears about the murder of trans people, about pipelines, about what's happening on Wet'suwet'en territory, about ICE, I burst into tears about Australia, I burst into tears a lot, and it comes over me in the middle of other tasks, unprompted. Sometimes some of the sadness about the world can put me out of commission, and I feel pretty helpless. This without usually being one of the people most affected by these horrors. I came to the conclusion that simply feeling awful about the awfulness of things wasn't productive. The sorrow wasn't helping me, it wasn't making me more useful, it wasn't galvanizing me. I thought about things I could feasibly do that utilized a skill set I already had where my voice might be useful and appropriate. I have listened to and participated in a lot of passionate discussions about how individual action is not the answer, that entire systems need to be dismantled, and I agree.
I just don't know how to do that.
It's so large and daunting a task I have no idea where to start. The idea of it gives me those fun anxious spirals. Even small day-to-day tasks for me sometimes feel hard and like they must be broken down. So I decided that with the bush fires and the (maybe?) impending end of the anthropocene I was going to write up a list of 20 small, imperfect, individual climate actions we can take, even though they're not sufficient to make the kind of change we need. (The site later renamed it 20 small, important climate actions we can take.) I'm not typically a non-fiction writer. I wrote it trying to lightly acknowledge some of the ways in which individual climate actions can be exclusionary depending on what you're working with. If you're low income, if you have certain disabilities, etc. some climate actions are not possible for you and shouldn't be foisted on you. A lot of the suggestions are things the folks in my life already do, but my social circle consists of a lot of highly educated activists. In writing this list, I was worried about what the response would be. Is it too 101? Is this written for only a very specific demographic? Does writing about individual action give people a sense that they do X, and so good enough, that's all they need to do? Is advocating for individual action distracting peoples' energies from doing bigger work? These are all critiques that I feel could be made. I also legitimately think that individual actions, even if they do not make a big enough difference to even be measurable, have a more positive impact than not doing them at all. This impact might be negligible. Every time I don't say "do you mind?" to a guy who bumps into me and then doesn't apologize, it's a victory. It puts less conflict into that guy's and frankly my own day than if I'd snapped at him. It's not going to stop people from bumping into each other on a street. But it's not going to make things worse. So I took this list and I submitted it to Thought Catalog. I got so much positive response for the Gilmore Girls piece and so many folks read it I thought it would be a good spot for it. I sent it in. They chose to publish it, and I'm super grateful. I hope someone finds it helpful, that it gives someone an idea they implement sometimes. I hope it's not harmful. I hope I keep trying to find ways to turn my hurt into something even a little bit useful. I hope all of our caring becomes solutions instead of an inescapable sadness? Boy. Being a person. What a thing.
[WRITING ACCEPTANCE 2/?] Nice list! The article is live here.
Until next time, -E.B. Kirsh