If we look at the world that is coalescing since the impact of Covid 19 and the it’s-already-too-late of the Climate Catastrophe, we are having to sit with some very uncomfortable facts.
The world is not the same. The choices and cushions we had have changed.
Our capacity to fly around the world when we have the means and the inclination has fallen away. Our capacity to use technologies and go through summers without bushfires, or winters without floods seems to be a thing of the past. The world has changed.
The concurrent change in people’s choice making doesn’t seem to have changed however.
People seem to want to make the same choices while finding themselves in a different world.
The changes in the world around us have to factor into the way we live, the choices we make, the way we move in the world. People seem to want to claim freedom and their rights while not considering what impacts this has, as they could for a couple of generations. The fact that we have to consider what our choices do to the people around matters in a whole new way.
As I wrote before, I was anti-vaccination in the old world. I had thought and read long and hard and considered, on balance, that not vaccinating was the right decision for me.
Now, that decision is upended. The world has changed. The risk my unvaccinated self poses to others means that I can’t make a choice based on what works best for me without realising it impacts my community. I am making a new choice because the parameters are different.
I have been watching the way many seem to be holding onto the idea, any way they can, that life is the same, that the world is more controllable than it is.
Uncertainty is a deeply difficult thing for humans to manage. We have to feel some sense of certainty to feel safe and often we reach for that through trying to control things.
Some seem to find a sense of control through the belief that they have been party to secret information that blows the lid off the hoax. (What makes a mind available to believe that there is power diabolical enough to engineer a hoax where 4.3 million people die to prove a point?) Some seem to just want to carry on as normal and convince themselves it’s their right to do what they have always done (my bach my rights!). And some rally deliberately giving rise to super-spreader events, to protest about tyranny from the comfort of their white middle class lives.
The way people seem to be incapable of taking on board the understanding that things are different now, whether you like it or not, is alarming. We are being required to take a new stand, to make a change in the parameters of our choices and decision making. But not all people are capable of doing that.
When people show up unwilling to change perspectives or take on the situation at hand they often also ask to have their opinions respected.
I have a problem with this. Firstly, as someone way wiser than me pointed out, choice is choosing chicken chips to salt and vinegar, not I choose not to believe in this pandemic.
Secondly, whether you protect me from your potential infectivity or not, matters to me. It’s taking my choice to be safe and healthy away from me if you don’t wear a mask. It puts me at risk. That’s not you exercising a right, that’s you valuing your stand over my wellbeing. If I have disabilities or immunity issues or am at risk because of other health conditions, your actions, put me at risk.
Now let me backtrack. Is big pharma a beneficent fount of goodness? No. Are all the decisions the Government make wonderful and in line with what I hope for? No. Is the medical system all it could be? The education system? The housing system? The welfare system? NopeNoNope. Does this make me mistrust everything they say and make them the bad guys who have sinister motives at every turn? Also no.
Part of developing an adult competency is the capacity to not split. Splitting as a psychological principle is where someone, in order to build certainty, wants things to be all good. Or if there are some flaws, they then “split” and that object/person/structure etc, becomes all bad.
There seems to be little tolerance for or resilience to the messy middle, which unfortunately, is where most of human life sits. The flawed messy middle, where we have to roll around with hard stuff, make decisions that aren’t always a HELL YES. We are often confronting confusion, complexity, dissonance, nuance and having to come through a good deal of discernment before we find a place we are mostly comfortable with.
When we are able to do this, look into what is the best choice from a range of tricksy ones, we are required to hold the tension of the opposites, this is where the new way comes from. Not from flinging from bad to good and back again but from being both flawed and wonderful and finding a new way to engage, to grow from that place.
Climate change has overtaken us, in part because of splitting. There was a reluctance to bear the weight of the change, the friction of what was called for so the original scientists were poo-hooed, some sceptic was always trotted out to refute the claims and time was wasted. Some parts of our communities made the climate scientists, who were ringing alarm bells out to be fools. They put them in the bad end of the split and so we were held in place dithering while , well, Rome burned.
Over the last few weeks, I have been noticing a call to “respect my choice.” when they are not making a choice based on untruth. A call was put to me to be kind to a man who reportedly yelled and spat at the supermarket when he was told to put on a mask. In pointing out how his choice, frustratingly, I believe made because he was filled with the same kind of disinformation, put me and others I care about at risk, I was told to be compassionate. His freedom to not wear a mask could well have put others in the same queue with immunity issues at serious risk. I could have been standing in that queue unwittingly having been infectious from a recent trip to Auckland. I could have made him sick. How is that freedom?
There are calls in my community to just be more compassionate, be kinder, let the choices they make stand.
And this is where Randi Buckley’s wisdom comes in. Randi is the developer and teacher of the radically beautiful Healthy Boundaries for Kind People work. Do her workshops (or one with me using her work!) you won’t regret it. One of things she teaches about is Idiot compassion. This is a Buddhist term that describes a glossing over of hard things in order to be nice and avoid conflict and to act as if being compassionate, when in avoiding the hard conversation, you are not serving compassion at all. Compassion is served when hard things are confronted with care. Letting harm continue in the name of compassion is not compassionate; hence idiot compassion.
My experience is that in letting people continue talking about ‘respect my choice’ and ‘tyranny’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘hoaxes’ without challenging them I am not serving compassion. Compassion has to stretch wider than discomfort. It’s got to hold the impact of choices on others. It’s got to hold the wellbeing of the community, it’s got to hold our planets survival in our view.
Let’s not be idiots in the name of compassion.
If you are in Aotearoa NZ and have concerns about your wellbeing please go to this website for a range of community resources.