The Year of Consequence (and 2018, the Year to Come)

For myself, the consequences of 2016 have manifested in a way that makes 2018 feel like the ‘make it or break it year’.

Someone recently said to me that 2017 wasn’t actually the year that everything went haywire – that was the year before. 2017 is the year we had to live with the tumultuous votes we made before it started. And, like with the realm of politics, for me 2017 has also been the year of decisions coming home to roost.

The consequences of 2016 linger. Both the good and bad have set the world on a course I’m not sure I can fully appreciate just yet. 2018 will perhaps be the climatic third act, the soothing of the horrors, where we recognise the error of our ways. The pessimist in me says that things always continue much the same, sometimes better, generally worse, and relying on fables of how things ought to turn out is really an excuse to not try too hard to change anything.

For myself, the consequences of 2016 have manifested in a way that makes 2018 feel like the ‘make it or break it year’. In March I applied to my Masters course – now I have an M.A. in Politics and Society and the beginnings of another language. My elegant new fuck-it attitude, inspired by spectacularly and permanently breaking up a close friendship due to an email in November 2016, meant I pursued a meaningful thesis topic rather than something bland and easier to sell to relatives. I ummed and ahhed over it, until my thesis supervisor simply said “Rushaa, you know what you want to do” and that was enough permission to throw myself into something I consider one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever written.

For so long consequence and failure seemed synonyms in my mind. Consequence has such a gravity to it that I could only envision it as something I did ending badly. I spent a lot of my time and energy dealing with an impostor syndrome that permeated every inch of my life. My anxieties of not being good enough have roots in many places; I tend to find it hard to trust that those close to me aren’t lying that I have talent. This is partially why I enjoy and thrive in academic spaces, as praise there seems more legitimate.

This is perhaps also why 2017 and dealing with what it caused, failures included, has been so good for me. Fuck-it attitudes work out temporarily, but it can’t be denied that they’re also deeply tied to the idea that you’re not actually valuable enough to need to worry about the consequences. These past few months I’ve been looking over the small choices I made in 2016 that have been positive, and then picking others to make now in order to best set 2018 up as a year where I can continue trying to accept appreciation without greeting it with scepticism.

Achievements in a capitalist system are always so tied to production that it can be hard to recognise internal growth as a success in itself. Status is earned in how many pounds we pull in, and how many people know our name. I am not saying I am now immune to this (far from it – I have been feeling stagnant because I am missing that social validation from a monthly salary) but I want to give space to feel proud of how different I’ve become and how willing I am to be weak, vulnerable, and most importantly let myself risk feeling resented or pitied for the chance to articulate my feelings.

The first post I ever wrote for this blog was supposed to change everything. It was freshly 2015 and I wanted to do something great with my life, aware that much of that motivation stemmed from a desire for external praise. The next year I was tempered, coming to the conclusion that life is actually about the minutiae of changes you make day-to-day that gradually lead to a wholesale transformation. Last year I just wanted to deal with political chaos by helping others and pretend that I didn’t also need help myself.

2018 will be about carrying a new confidence built from internal validation. I know that it will be messy but I am hoping that – just as 2016’s impact still lingers – my intentional interventions will reverberate across next year.

 

A Great Fear of the Future

I began writing this essay on the night of the UK 2015 General Election when the Exit Poll came in. I began to wonder where we go from here when everything seems so very gloomy, and it feels like my fate is to be a cliché millennial always wanting more than I deserve. I continued this on the same morning that a friend moved across an ocean and I tried not to cry about the fact that everything is changing very quickly. I am finishing it now as I prepare to move back in with my mother for a short while before I begin my own (altogether shorter) overseas adventure.

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The UK General Election results show that the Conservatives slash and burn policies can not only maintain interest from the public, but even gather them more support. Or theoretically “more support” since the link between seats and votes is quite tenuous in our first-past-the-post system here. Still the Tories are doing well, and more concerning are the millions who voted for UKIP – a number which would surely be greater under a more representative voting system which did not encourage tactical votes. I have never had the opportunity to live under unrestrained Toryism and now I have triggered a sort of inherited fear. It is like a klaxon has been going off in my head since May 7th: BE WARNED, BAD TIDINGS AHEAD!

It’s a bit absurd since I personally won’t be too badly harmed; in a lot of ways the state was always made for people like me. Yes, I do have aspects and circumstances that can be held against me – my name for starters is not ideal – but overall I have access to a lot of privilege that will allow me to avoid some of the most devastating things that will be happening to our communities over the next five years.

Still we as humans get scared when we don’t have that certain security. It’s why, because I was fortunate enough to be able to, I marched on June 20th to #EndAusterityNow. Obviously it will take more than a march to change government policy, especially a majority government, but it was a way for me to plant my feet down and mark out publicly what I value. Part of the reason I have not joined a political party is that none so far close enough reflects what I treasure to speak for me, so I need to take that responsibility to speak myself.

It is now that we have to accept that a lot of personal decisions feed into the bigger political problem. Without active dissent a majority government is a lot more secure in pushing through proposals that damage us. And in a majority conservative government there is a danger that the entire political conversation will drag to the right, and with it more extreme positions seem less dramatic. If I don’t speak out about bigotry I see, aggressively in my day-to-day life, I let people get away with thinking that I don’t really care. So the personal is political.

Too often actions we want to take get watered down by fears of judgement. Start with the simple notion of shaving off body hair as a woman. Expand that into letting slightly offensive jokes slide because you know that the person isn’t bad.  Feel resentful when someone gets angry with you about something you’ve done that has hurt them. I am not immune to this – I bite my tongue on certain things to keep the peace. Months ago I would have said this allowed me to change things in a more subtle way, and though it has had some impact in some areas I’m starting to come to the view that subtly is a poor weapon against the things that I hate and fear. I need to see this dissociation for what it is – inherently harmful to others. Taking as much action as possible, more than I think I can get away with means that even when things are awful I can be happy with my conduct. This is not just about austerity, but about the whole way society conducts itself.

I am not suddenly going to stop being scared, both of possible retributions for speaking out over different things, and of the future that the country seems to be heading for, but I do have the option to decide which scares me more. Sometimes it will be the first, sometimes the latter. Sometimes I will be resistant to doing certain things because of criticism from those to the right of me, and sometimes it will be those from the left I am concerned with. In general though I am trying to move on from letting other people decide how loud I shout about a system that takes the most vulnerable and hurts them more.

We shape the world in the image of our actions. I want my world to care about those who don’t have all of the extra assurances that I do.