Tears as the World Collapses

Joanna Macy

Joanna Macy

Editor’s Note: this post comes from DGR Seattle member Karen Fite, who is a longtime activist and community organizer. Here, she responds to a thoughtful article by our friend Dahr Jamail, a talented journalist who came to prominence for his un-embedded reporting on the Iraq war and now focuses on climate collapse.

I read this article for the first time awhile ago. I just read it again and it speaks to my condition at this time.

I spent the morning in tears, having read about Dolphins in Fukushima, about how the land for uranium mines was simply taken from the Navajo and then they were (and still are) so damaged by the mining process — and of course we all are by the results of the mining.

I saw some children running in the field at Greenlake Park and I wept for them, for all the children who will have to endure the endgame of our society’s insane greed. For all the animals and plants that are being destroyed by our civilization. I read about elephants crying. About Jane Goodall. Toni Morrison. Women of courage. And Joanna Macy thank you so much for putting my grief into words.

For some reason I can’t explain I have been lately on the path that Macy was on in the ’70s of learning about the consequences of splitting the atom and making nuclear anything – weapons of course, but also nuclear power plants. Ever since Fukushima, I have been reading and reading and reading about nuclear issues and feeling helpless rage. The book The Woman Who Knew too Much about British MD and epidemiologist Alice Stewart was one I could only digest 5 pages at a time because I became so enraged with the power of the capitalist pronuclear medical establishment patriarch to silence and discredit her despite the fact that she was brilliant and right.

She is the one we have to thank for our knowing that X-rays damage the fetus.

Here is a little excerpt from this Dahr Jamail article:

“Macy holds great concern and sadness about what her grandchildren, who are in their early teens, will face in the coming years as ACD (man-made climate change) progresses.

‘Of course the sadness that I haven’t been able stop it, is beyond words,’ she explained, beginning to weep. ‘It’s a sadness that has to go unspoken in a way, because right at the moment I’m working on a chapter in a book about working with youth and children, and how to talk to young people about this. But it’s the biggest challenge. And they are kept too busy, so glued to their electronic appliances, the whole culture is . . . you can’t live in this culture without being semi-hypnotized.’

Our situation so often feels hopeless. So much has spun out of control, and pathology surrounds us. At least one in five Americans are taking psychiatric medications, and the number of children taking adult psychiatric drugs is soaring.

From the perspective of Macy’s teachings, it seems hard to argue that this isn’t, at least in part, active denial of what is happening to the world and how challenging it is for both adults and children to deal with it emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

These disturbing trends, which are increasing, are something she is very mindful of. As she wrote in World as Lover, World as Self, “The loss of certainty that there will be a future is, I believe, the pivotal psychological reality of our time.”

Niki [Karen’s partner] and I were talking about how much things have changed in our lifetimes — and this, the sense that there will be no future and certainly no beautiful comfortable hopeful future, is the most profound change and the most unbearable. Thank you Joanna Macy for helping us to think about this reality and to talk with each other honestly about it.

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2 Responses to Tears as the World Collapses

  1. Thank you for sharing these heartfelt reflections, Karen.

  2. Sandi says:

    I often wonder why I have known since 1969 that it was insane to bring children into this world (The Limits to Growth) but no one else concurred? It became over the years even more disconcerting that instead of preparing our future generations to improve conditions, we sank deeper into the politics of denial and an artificial commercialized ultra-sexualized pop culture. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll did not seem to serve us well after all — and McCarthy seems to still be having that Cold War.

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