Read-along-with-Anne: The Impossible 5

Posted on Nov 17, 2017 in Fieldnotes, Read Along
This is part of #theimpossible series

The Impossible Will Take A Little While, Chapter 5, Danusha Veronica Goska’s essay “Political Paralysis

This is the last chapter in the first section, and after yesterday’s high I didn’t know what to expect. It begins by citing a concern I often share:

“I want to do something, but what can I do? I’m just one person, an average person. I can’t have an impact. I live with the despair of my own powerlessness. I can’t bring myself to do anything. The world is so screwed up, and I have so little power. I feel so paralyzed.”

But the author’s response? I’d never considered that my despair might embody a certain arrogance, and I was instantly humbled–but not shamed–by these words:

“I have an illness that causes intermittent bouts of paralysis. And that paralysis has taught me something. It has taught me that my protestations of my own powerlessness are bogus. Yes, some days I can’t move or see. But you know what? Some days I can move. Some days I can see. And the difference between being able to walk across the room and not being able to walk across the room is epic … When I have been sick and housebound for days, I wish someone–anyone–would talk to me. To hear a human voice say my name; to be touched: that would mean the world to me … The problem is not that we have so little power. The problem is that we don’t use the power that we have.”

Through her recollections, Goska reminds us that “virtue” is so often misunderstood as something huge and rare and extraordinary–when it can always be found in small, ordinary, everyday acts of kindness and shared humanity. And she challenges us to ask why that is.

“Sometimes we convince ourselves that the ‘unnoticed’ gestures of ‘insignificant’ people mean nothing … [and we’ve] been told many times: ‘What you feel does not matter; what you believe is ridiculous; what you envision is worthless; just sit back and obey the priest, the preacher, the teacher, the cop, the mob, the man in charge, or your own fear’ … Such self-numbed people may see themselves as perpetual victims … These are the folks who begrudge so much as a smile to their neighbours.

[…]

My stays in Poland introduced me to otherwise empty-handed activists who faced off against Nazis, Communists, and now, capitalism, with relentless personal power. ‘Burnout’ and ‘apathy’ were not in their vocabulary. Even when serving time in prisons that appeared on no map, they felt visible. Honor recorded their every deed, and ensured that it mattered.”

Oh, Hope! I see you in tiny, wonderful things!

I see you, and it matters!

Noho ora mai,
Anne