There are crucial links between what is needed to stimulate political action to fight tyranny and what is needed to limit or reverse global warming.
The first lesson discussed by Timothy Snyder about fighting tyranny in his best-selling book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is “don’t obey in advance.” Don’t give up, don’t just give would-be tyrants the power they crave. The fourth lesson is “take responsibility for the world.” “In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much.” Everything counts, even our smallest actions, even what we imagine. But the tyrant tries to make us feel that nothing we can do matters.
In the beginning of a tyrant’s power, people can successfully resist without paying a big price. Our right to protest, vote, speak our feelings to friends and neighbors, write blogs, start local organizations are protected.
The same is true, now, with the environment. “If you’re doing nothing, you’re actually doing something”⎼ you’re helping the autocrat, or you’re assisting global warming. “Never consent to an authoritarian.” Never consent to simply allow the destruction of our world.
It is just over a week since The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report, saying the situation of our planet is dire, “code red,” but we can still do something to slow, minimize, or change it.
It is so easy to feel our actions won’t matter. We can worry that the problem is too big, now, or that we’re not sure what the most effective thing is we can do. We want to see a measurable response to our actions, to see an effect. This can be a sort of egotism. Sometimes, we must just do the right thing without knowing how much effect we’ll have, or without seeing ourselves acknowledged for what we’ve done. Sometimes, we must do little things just to know we can do anything. If we don’t act while we wait to find the most effective action to take, there’s a good chance nothing will get done. If we don’t act, why should anyone else? Fear spreads easily. So can hope.
Hopelessness is so easy to feel. It includes not only a sense of powerlessness but isolation. When hopeless, we don’t feel the rest of the 72% of the population that shares with us the understanding of the role we humans are playing in causing climate change. We feel the fate of the world is our fate, and at the same time we feel separate from others, unable to reach them or to convince them to act. Every breath we take is the world breathing.
It is like when we’re sick, and it’s difficult to imagine what it is like when we’re well. We suffer from a failure of imagination. Or when we’re depressed, we can’t hear or absorb information that speaks against depression.
In 2019, the Zen teacher, Norman Fischer, came out with a book called The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path. A Bodhisattva is someone who focuses on relieving the suffering of all people, not just oneself. And the imagination has a power larger than what we often realize. It shapes what we think is possible. “It leaps from the known to the unknown… It lightens up the heavy circumscribed world we think we live in.” Fischer says the world not only can be, but is more than the tangible, the knowable, the negotiable; more than the data which gives us the illusion we can know all there is to know….
*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.