“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.” ― Antonio Gramsci
Deciding how to start writing again this year was a challenge. Considering how the world unfolds, all that comes to mind is a warning: enter 2024 at your peril.
Perhaps a chaotic world is the new normal. We are experiencing it in ourselves too. Our trust in humanity is waning, what we told ourselves would never happen again is unravelling before our eyes.
And this chaotic world is increasingly impacting our personal lives and our relationships with each other. As most of us are not trained or equipped to cope, the reflex is to medicate, to numb ourselves or to turn against each other.
Despite that, there is also light. A growing number of people and organisations are starting to understand how everything is connected, all of our crises, our behaviours, and our attitudes. We can no longer try to fix one small problem in isolation without understanding the bigger context.
This also means coming to terms with the fact that we cannot change the world. We cannot prevent this chaos. But it doesn’t mean we give up or hide away in fear, on the contrary. It’s an opportunity to take a more honest look at what it is we can do - and how we do it. This can lead to renewed curiosity and openness.
In this context, here are some of the themes and questions we want to explore this coming year:
Many of us have, for too long, worked on the premise that the system was broken and we needed the good people to fix it. But the system is not broken, it has been working perfectly well for those who built it and benefit from it.
Understanding how our fears, challenges, experiences are connected should not lead us to despair, blame or victimhood, but renew our search for community. If we use the same tactics as the oppressors, we are just feeding the flames.
For too long, it was the burden of the oppressed to dismantle their oppression. But as Audre Lorde wrote, “there is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.” How can we support that creative spirit and those devising new scenarios?
Where politicians, bureaucrats and technology want to keep categorising us, we must not. We must seek liberation.
And with the rise of nationalism and authoritarian leaders spreading a politics of hate and exclusion, how do we celebrate differences and seek collective liberation?
The challenges we are facing today and the uncertain future leaves many of us, old and young, baffled and at a loss for words. We might not recognise our own feelings and don’t know how to communicate them. How can we create a language that helps us better understand the world and each other?
Rather than trying to be the hero fighting the monster, perhaps we should focus on the new world that wants to be born. This is laying the groundwork for what will come after. It’s about asking ourselves: how may I be preventing the new world from being born?
Last year, we began by saying we would be doing less, but in whatever we did, we would do artfully, simply and with care. This remains our way. But we also feel more and more that what matters most in these times is not so much which issue we may be working on, but how we show up in the work that we do.
Our times are monsters, our crises are monsters, our politicians are monsters. The way we respond to them is often monstrous. We are all monsters. But perhaps this could actually be reassuring. Rather than being heroes with an impossible quest, if we can see ourselves as preposterous monsters, there is no pedestal to fall from, no ego to protect. We may even learn to laugh at ourselves in the process and just get on with our good work, whatever that might be.
Words, Veronica Yates and illustration, Miriam Sugranyes
“The Terrible Twenties? The Assholocene? What to Call our Chaotic Era,” Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 7 December 2023.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde.
“The Art of Doing Less,” The Rights Studio, January 2023. Read here.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chödrön.
The Earthly Community, reflections for the last utopia, Achille Mbembe.
‘Why I Sang in the Dungeons: A Prophecy to End the Year 2023,’ Bayo Akomolafe, 28 December 2023. Read here.
The Othering and Belonging Institute, visit here: https://belonging.berkeley.edu/
The Expulsion of the Other, Byung-Chul Han.
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl.
Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, Second edition, Margaret J. Wheatley.
Plutôt couler en beauté que flotter sans grâce, réflexions sur l’effondrement, Corinne Morel Darleux.
“Our natural systems are designed to function perfectly in relationship to one another. It is only when we break these natural systems down into fragmented pieces that the problems begin.”— Sherri Mitchell, Weh’na Ha’mu’ Kwasset
“One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."— Martin Luther King Jr.
“[Sound is] a movement that gives us each other, as both gift and threat, as generosity and agitation, as laughter and tears.”— Brandon Labelle, Acoustic Territories
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu