It would not be truthful to say that I am doing well. Yet despite my internal struggles, my response to the common question, "How are you?" is often a facade of normalcy. "I'm good, you?" How can we acknowledge the emotional complexity of our times and still stay connected?
Acknowledging the emotional complexity of our times.
Recently, I found myself amidst Extinction Rebellion climate activists on the A12 highway in the Hague, chanting “you are not alone”. Day after day, these activists gathered, highlighting the Dutch government's insufficient efforts regarding climate action and decarbonization. Witnessing the dedication with which these people showed up and spoke up day after day, it helped me connect with the depth of my own concerns and worries.
Simultaneously, as global conflicts in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine, Russia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Sudan continue to unfold, I grapple with the paradox of feeling grateful that we live in relative peace and safety while experiencing the pain and sadness of others are being oppressed and dispossessed.
This internal conflict made me reflect on how to navigate the complexities of our beliefs, emotions, and actions in the turmoil around us. It raises questions about the discrepancy between our ideals and behaviour, our feelings of safety juxtaposed with our vulnerability, and the challenge of discussing uncomfortable topics in today's news cycle.
As I listened to people around me who are working in hostile enviornments, know what its like to face oppression, I noticed how they stay positive and work towards peace. Despite the chaos, their voices continue to show us a different way of being.
Bright Voices in dark times that are showing the way
With profound gratitude to these remarkable individuals among whom my fellow panelists at the Partos Innovation festival, like Saranel Benjamin, Co-Director of Mama Cash who so eloquantly highlighted that these complexities require us to “confront internalised oppressions and recognise the human-made systems shaping our daily lives.” And Gerald Abila from Barefoot Law who expressed that "To progress as mature societies, we must learn to resolve conflicts openly and non-violently through dialogue.” A special appreciation to Laura Tufis for capturing these sentiments so beautifully.
Alexander Medik, co-founder of Disrupt Development who so poignantly points out that currently, the world is experiencing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, with an estimated 84 million displaced persons as a result. We must not turn a blind eye to the conflicts that are happening but are not receiving attention. Alexander emphases our moral responsibility to take action and raise awareness about all conflicts as "From experience, I (he) can tell you that it's a lonely feeling to witness a conflict in which people are suffering, passing by in silence."
Thank you also to the people from the Bio-leadership project, who hosted the uncomfortable conversations at the Blue Earth Summit last week. They embodied that while we can stand for something, as Alexandra Pimor shows us our discomfort can also allow us to move and bend and yield. And as Tess Wehmeijer points out: the wound is the the land of healing.
I gladly repost Berend Jan Hilberts thoughts as he wonders "who can be this someone taking a risk and returning injury and hurt with softness, kindness and forgiveness, being the giver with an open hand, not the taker with the closed fist?" Inspired by this beautiful verse 67 from the Tao Te CHing, translated by Wayne Dyer.
Verse 67 from the Tao Te Ching
A person is born gentle and weak
At death he is hard and stiff.
All things, including the grass and the trees
are soft and pliable in life, dry and brittle in death.
Stiffness is thus a companion of death, flexibility a companion of life.
An army that cannot yield, will be defeated.
A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind.
The hard and stiff will be broken, soft and supple will prevail.
By Wayne Dyer
My big take-away is that there is great strength in acknowledging emotional complexity. Confronting our beliefs, emotions, and actions openly is especially important amidst global conflicts and internal struggles. And from the dedication of activists and individuals who work in oppressive environments, it is evident that maintaining positivity and working towards peace, even amidst chaos, is possible.
So, as employee activists, our role is crucial. We need to focus on creating safe spaces for dialogue, promoting understanding and empathy. If we approach these conversations with curiosity, inviting storytelling, and listening with the intent to comprehend, fostering an environment of peaceful coexistence, we can create a ripple effect of this work..
Author: Tessa Wernink
Founder Undercover Activist. Coach and trainer.