I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate lately, following the excellent advice of Professor Lupin (from Harry Potter) who recommends chocolate to remedy an encounter with a Dementor. Because lately it feels like the world is fairly bursting at the seams with those nasty joy suckers.
They arrive on the world stage in the form of terrifying epidemics, religious fanatics whose sole response to anything is to randomly behead people, and political/racial fear-mongering about clothing, in particular head scarves. While in my personal world I could spend an hour a day signing petitions and writing letters to fight an ever increasing number of Dementor style troubles, including child sex slavery, unjust political imprisonments, wholesale slaughter of [insert endangered animal species here], illegal land grabs in third world countries by ruthless governments or multi-national companies, racist attacks, undermining of education, law suits by disgruntled failing publishers against brave bloggers and the list goes on. And on.
Meanwhile my comfortable first world life becomes ever more meaningless. No wonder my god damned muse has gone on permanent long service leave and refuses to cooperate. In short, I can't write because I'm so despairing of this monstrous, unholy mess we're all living in.
The only sensible answer is chocolate. (And possibly a great love story, which I'm trying to write).
Because sweetness is equivalent to joy, and if there’s one thing those Dementors can't stand it's joy, so they make sure it's in short supply, sacrificing to on the altar of fear along with its companions, common sense and informed debate. Fear, on the other hand, is having its own rave party. It’s like lighting a match: you strike up some terrible thing to be afraid of, put it to the ripe and ready kindle of social media and watch it take hold. It spreads like a virus, from Twitter account to Twitter account, from Facebook profile to Facebook profile, gets right in your face and before you know it, stepping out your front door to post a letter becomes a small act of bravery. Just like Dementors, fear sucks the joy out of life.
It’s not easy to maintain any sense of optimism in the face of what is happening on this tiny planet, but if you are a reasonable, rational, informed human being you must at least try. Negativity (and flippancy for that matter) is contagious. The more we talk negatively, the more we talk negatively. The worse things get, the worse things get. The more we make light of it, the heavier the burden becomes for others.
I made a choice a while ago not to interact with commercial media because I simply can’t stand the unnecessary hysteria their journalists try to whip up. Commercial media prays on the very aspects of human nature that create the problems in the first place. But I can’t in all good conscience tune out completely, because, you know, if you stick your head in the sand the end result is you’ll get your arse kicked.
So what to do? How to hold my own against the Dementors surrounding the castle? How does one keep the faith without becoming a delusional Polly-Anna or an ignorant fool about to get her arse kicked?
I have to keep reminding myself the world isn’t really any scarier than it has always been. It's just we know more about the scary stuff now via the constant stream of social media and internet, so it feels like the world is a more frightening place. In the 1990’s it was Saddam Hussein and fashion overalls. In the 1970’s/80’s it was the hole in the ozone layer, uranium mining, nuclear waste and disco. In the 1950’s/60’s it was Vietnam war, nuclear war and Englebert Humperdinck. I also remind myself that politically there have always been despots and dictators, from the moment we stood up (and probably before) people have been driven by selfishness, violence, power and greed. Once there was the Spanish Inquisition and the Klu Klux Klan and Hitler. Now there is the Islamic State.
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ might sound like a cheesy bit of pop culture, but it’s a better option than igniting and spreading negativity. Where we can, we could choose instead to demonstrate the very qualities that are so lacking - compassion, calm, emotional intelligence, tolerance, foresight, insight - and maybe (just maybe) bring a little sweetness and joy to combat the Dementors of our time.
Someone said to me this year ‘Funny thing, if you set high expectations of people, they usually strive to meet them.’ So I guess maintaining my human warmth and compassion, my natural hope (the ability to stay cheerful in challenging circumstances) and optimism for my fellow humans, and letting them know I expect their very best (not their very worst) are my best answer to the Dementors. This kind of thinking mght just be the equivalent of psychological chocolate.
And if that runs out, I’ve always got Lindt balls. And romance books.