Feeling unsafe – Tales from times of uncertainty #3

I wonder about many things in these strange times… I feel a lot of things too. One feeling in particular is insecure… Basically I feel unsafe.

There is a lot of uncertainty about most things – here in the UK the combination of the pandemic and Brexit creates a sense that nobody really knows what going on, what to do, who to trust or what to believe.

So I feel unsafe because more than ever I don’t feel able to trust that authorities are able to make sensible decisions. Rather it feels like a lot of decision-making is fear driven. Fear of losing power and fear of losing face. Nobody seems willing to admit that they don’t know what is going on and that there is no best way forward. We have no way of knowing the full consequences of the decisions being made now – we never do.

I also feel unsafe because there is a sense of highly divided opinions and a style of communication becoming acceptable that I thought we used to call bullying. A policing in public spaces – particularly online – of other peoples beliefs and ways of expressing themselves. And if expressed beliefs, thoughts, opinions or the language used is not up to certain standards then it’s okay to attack who ever has offended us or challenged us or made us feel uncomfortable.

I feel uncomfortable most of the time when I engage in social exchanges – whether face to face or online. I find it challenging both emotionally and idealogically. I often experience things and think of things differently to those around me and this used to make me feel like there was something wrong with me. It also meant that I learnt not to express myself and often I would just observe others. Too often I experienced that peoples eyes would glaize over or people would just ignore if I did express how I perceived something. And I would feel sad and angry but I never thought that attacking people would bring me what I was looking for – which was always connection and belonging.

We are going through something globally which is extremely challenging and for a majority of people it is traumatising. A slow – more or less subtle – trauma is unfolding around us and within us.

And most people are trying to navigate this in their own way.

Maybe for some people it really is still business as usual and they are not finding their life changed in any significant way. But I mainly am connected to and in communities with people who are struggling and doing their best to make it through.

People trying to make sense of it in their own way and finding community around certain beliefs that explains what is happening.

People feeling desperate, powerless and angry and turning to social media to vent their emotions or create a sense of agency by expressing their opinions strongly.

People looking for connection and belonging and joining the main stream conversations about staying safe and getting the vaccine.

People feeling like they are drowning and turning to hyper-positivity to make it through the day.

People feeling lost and finding a sense of self and purpose by getting involved in political and social justice issues.

However we find a way to navigate this current social crisis – it is understandable.

What I am most sad about is that I personally have felt unsafe to express myself. The sensation that the current climate is not a place where I can express myself and share stuff I do, feel, create and think.

What I find most amazing about social media has no longer felt possible. The space to create our own channels for sharing what we care about and connect with each other around our passions. I’ve withdrawn and stopped sharing things unless I thought it wouldn’t attract any direct attacks.

But today I thought: I can’t live like this. I don’t want to be so scared that I stop sharing stuff I care about with people who might find it interesting, useful or thought provoking.

So I want to finish this blog with a question to anyone who reads this. It’s meant to invite reflection on whether it’s possible to stay open to difference in these unsafe and fearful times. Maybe things are too scary to stay open and curious – I don’t know but this is my question:

If I told you I have decided to not have a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine how would you respond? What would you think of me? Would you label me an ‘antivaxer’? Would you want to convince me to have one? Would you feel scared to be within breathing distance of me? Would you feel amgry with me? Would you feel relieved that you were not alone in not having the vaccine? Would you feel intrigued and curious? Would it not matter to you?

Would you be my friend?