Eco-anxiety or cultural apocalypse
Eco-anxiety has been my companion for more than a decade. It brings me down in sorrow and grief for a living, complex but collapsing world. Some days I barely sleep, others don’t have the strength to come out of bed. Sometimes unbearable, this feeling has a weight of its own, crushing (my) reality. Yet, I do get out of bed every single day for my two children. It is for them that I weep, concerning all the life we are destroying, like sand dripping through our fingers, with all the modern delusions about productivity that are losing the grip on life itself. I mourn for the future we are stripping bare, for all the tension of tending life in a profoundly violent cultural system. All this while trying to make a living, putting food and meaning on the table every day.
Having children gives me a privileged front-row seat in the eco-anxiety arena, with all the genocide and ecocide resonating through the open heart. When we care, we live through this sacred blood-pumping muscle, despite all the pain of breaking it open again and again.
Having this sorrow and anger so present in me, a white, urban, middle-aged southern-european woman, the first time someone told me this is a white person’s problem, I did not understand. I was bewildered. White people’s limitations, you see? We have this normative culture so internalized that we have a hard time imagining otherwise. This narrow and absolutist mindset usually doesn’t allow us to see beyond anything. So, it took me some time, meandering within my grief, but eventually, I grasped some understanding of this perspective. I finally understood that most of the people in the world are already living in a post-apocalyptical world, striving to live with only the fragments and remains of what the western culture extreme plunder concedes. These ancient contextual cultures, land guardians, entire ecosystems, and languages have already been violated, their bodies and souls mutilated repeatedly and continuously invisibilized, neglected, and ignored. These populations are trying to make a living gathering the remnants of their original contextual wisdom while fighting for their right to exist. Continuously, every day, all day. They barely grasp security through scraps of water, food, and shelter. All this while trying to make a living, putting food and meaning on the table every day.
Neophytes of the apocalypse
Apocalypse is a powerful word with a vast historical, cultural and religious charge. It tends to be negative, but in truth, an apocalypse is a revelation: to be able to see something previously hidden. It comes from the Greek word Apokálypsis, which means “to lift the veil” or discover something secret.
Here in the modern western culture, we are neophytes of the apocalypse. By all the continuous war and plunder we recreate everywhere (calling it our right to progress), we are finally being confronted with the sneaky monster of the true consequences of all our privilege. Lifting the pervasive cultural veil that encompasses and filters our perception of reality is an intimidating endeavor, but a needed one. Yes, it is disturbing and agonizing to view beyond this cultural screen, but essential to rescue different perspectives. It is not about bravery, but to touch humbleness. To finally fall out from the high chair, the seat that compromised life itself.
After all these years of weakening anxiety, I now feel it is not “eco” but rather cultural-apocalypse anxiety — an abyssal cultural revolution befalling throughout to a population who lost their contextual wisdom and tools for dealing with paradox profound transformations.
When we dare to look deep into the hurt and angry heart of eco-anxiety, we usually find a bare culture, bone memories of scarcity, plunder, and war. A culture that lost its place, acquiring the violent art of subjugation millennia ago.
Hybridization or absolutism — the othering
Crossing the abyss of the hegemonic cultural perspectives takes us away from absolutism, bringing us down to our knees, howling to life. The othering is an ancient tool of cultural absolutism, and it creates a meaningful severance between them and us. This colonial tool is fractally repeated to exhaustion at the expense of life’s diversity.
To feel the sacred organic weaving of the (more than) human others into our real life, we need to pass the threshold of technology, science, or religion. Welcoming the many threads, most of them invisible, strands that embrace us, crossing and stitching outer and inner diversity, confessing the deep hybridization of all life — rhythmic living textures of delicate filaments that tether interlacing dimensions.
We need to lift the veils of identity beyond the images, ideas, structures, knowledge, solutions, and dimensions that arise from a powerful yet genocidal culture. We need to remember who we really are and that we are enough.
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[Disclaimer: all these words and weaved concepts are birthed through my lived, biased, and always limited perception of things, not supposing to bring any absolute truth.]
By Sofia Batalha
Mammal, author, woman-mother, question weaver and dismantling global-colonial-technological-capitalism one day at a time. Awkward prose-poet with no grammatical knowledge. Pilgrim through inner and outer landscapes, remembering ancient earth practices, in radical presence, active listening, ecopsychology, art, ecstasy, and writing. Author of seven books, editor of the free online magazine, Wind and Water, Re-member the Bones Podcast, and Beyond the Sea Conversations — all in Portuguese.
More information: sofiabatalha.com