“In darker days there lived a man who thought as you did”.
Many talented and morally fit activists are becoming discouraged and frustrated as their efforts to avoid our impending external disasters and internal divisiveness are subjected to incivility probably not seen within the United States since the era immediately preceding the Civil War; as their good faith efforts to address our current problems are confronted by ridicule and acrimony rather than fruitful discussion; as their social media posts are distorted by paid trolls writing from prepared scripts. Among those finding themselves mired in a sense of hopelessness are some of my closest friends, some of the people I most admire, decent as well as brilliant but sensitive too. People whose energy, dedication and ideals we can ill afford to lose but whom we are losing all the same.
Any of us is likely to succumb to similar despair and discouragement. That’s not surprising. That’s the plan. Those bound by truth and ethics are at severe disadvantages when confronting those to whom truth is irrelevant in the face of rhetorical quips, ridicule and optimal ethical flexibility, those to whom winning now is all that matters and the future be damned, those who believe, as did Louis XV of France, that “Après moi, le déluge” (some of us may recall the “deluge” that visited his France during his grandson’s abbreviated reign). The next “deluge”, however, is all too likely to be our last as a species, so we must somehow find a means to reinforce our determination when things seem desperate, or when we are emotionally wounded and just want to find a quiet place to lick our wounds and escape the madness. And for that we need each other, even if we are not acquainted. Sometimes even the realization, as Sigmund Freud pointed out, that “[i]n darker days there lived a man who thought as you did” (Moses and Monotheism) may prove enough.
The following is a letter I recently wrote in reply to a friend concerning his experiences with the foregoing malaise which has apparently led him to despair of using social media to help guide his friends towards positive political solutions. I take the liberty of sharing it publicly, albeit without identifying him, perhaps playing the role, for an instant, of that “man who lived in darker times” for those of us who find ourselves in need of encouragement and a route out of our of despair in the face of the entropy of things as they are and of where they appear headed:
So, dear reader, our views may be different, our understanding of the problems facing us or of who is responsible may be opposed, our perspectives and proposed solutions may not coincide, but if we’re to develop novel paradigms to resolve the myriad evolving apparently intractable problems facing us, we cannot afford to drop out in anger or despair or disappointment. The only assurance of failure comes when we give up, when we don’t try, when our fear of failure overcomes our desire to succeed.
The quote from Freud cited above has frequently provided me with solace and a link to friends unknown, friends not only distant in space but in time. Friends whose names I’ll never know but who, just knowing that they existed, exist or will exist, provides a link that’s given me courage in very dark times, and few times seem darker than those we now seem to be facing.
Hopefully, should you find yourself in need of such solace, those unknown and unknowable friends will provide it to you as well.
Hang in there.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.