While the milieu of industrial civilization with its worship of technology, has always sent us engraved invitations to regard external forces as the final authority and minimize or disparage our inner authority, I believe that not since the 1930s in Europe have we seen such blatant burgeoning of capitulation to external authority as we are currently witnessing.
As I have said many times, for me it matters because how collapse unfolds is just as important as the fact that it unfolds. A fascist dictatorship in any country will cause collapse to unfold in unique ways. My work has always been about educating and fortifying others emotionally and spiritually to cope with collapse more resiliently than we might without specific psycho-spiritual tools. The tools we need to navigate the protracted degradation and destruction of the natural environment where there is little authoritarian repression are different than the tools we need to live in a society where food and water might be rationed or we are imprisoned in a work camp or we are living in a constant state of domestic terror.
With challenges to Roe looming on the horizon, and with many US states having already denied access to abortion facilities and reproductive health services through other means, Romania’s experience shows what happens when women suddenly lose the right to control their own bodies. Without reproductive freedom, heterosexual sex turns into a game of “Russian roulette” for women, because they quite literally bear the consequences of any liaison. Indeed, Alabama’s new law goes further than Ceaușescu’s Romania, by eliminating even the exception for rape or incest.
Do you see a little bit by what I mean when I say democracy needs to be nourished by sanity? If Americans had cared about each others’ psychological wounds — if they’d turned to one another and said: “we’re all being hurt by predatory systems and institutions, and yet we’re all asked to be part of them too — this has to change!” — then maybe enough people wouldn’t have been so psychically fragile as to be such easy prey for the world’s dumbest demagogue. But they were — and that Americans fell for Donald Trump, of all people, tells us just how badly psychologically shattered they must have been. You must be genuinely and totally broken inside by your insecurities if you believe what a Donald Trump is selling you.
We easily associate empathy, compassion, an open heart, support, cooperation, honesty, integrity, and gratitude with love, but how about boundaries, limits, grief, anger, discernment, comfort with not knowing, and a commitment to working on our personal and cultural shadow?
For it is only unacknowledged trauma that prompts us to act out in ways that make the problem worse. If what we have been calling “climate change” is, in fact, an unprecedented form of trauma that is prompting us to act out in such perplexing ways as questioning the validity of facts themselves, then there is tremendous potential for societal and global healing in simply bringing awareness to the nature of our collective wounding. As anyone who has walked a 12-step path will tell us, awareness is a powerful elixir.
Is there more to us than Thanatos? I believe there is. Art, medicine, literature tell me so. A little child’s laugh tells me so. The water against the waves does, too. But I also believe that we’ve been told for so long that there isn’t more to us than Thanatos — that all we are is little walking vessels of greed, rage, spite, and hate — that Thanatos is all we know how to be anymore. Let us, then, begin the difficult, beautiful work of discovering a greater truth about ourselves.
The longer we pretend this dystopian world is not imminent, the more unprepared and disempowered we will be. The ruling elite’s goal is to keep us entertained, frightened and passive while they build draconian structures of oppression grounded in this dark reality. It is up to us to pit power against power. Ours against theirs. Even if we cannot alter the larger culture, we can at least create self-sustaining enclaves where we can approximate freedom. We can keep alive the burning embers of a world based on mutual aid rather than mutual exploitation. And this, given what lies in front of us, will be a victory.
Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.