Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
I was telling my wife the other day that I felt a bit blue. It was a beautiful day, and we were hiking one of our favorite trails near our house. On paper there was no reason to feel blue, but I told her that, more and more, it seemed like there wasn’t much room for hope in the world we’re all living in right now. War, a pandemic, political catastrophes, the climate crisis, inhumanity to spare. Where is there a place for hope in all of it?
Frankly, when you look closely at the state of the world, it’s almost abnormal not to feel depressed. Sure, I can manage a little grin when I think of Eric Idle, crucified in Life of Brian, singing “Always look on the bright side of life!” Gallows humor. I imagine there’s even occasional laughter in Kyiv bunkers these days as the Russian shells fall on apartment buildings, theaters, schools, and hospitals. “At least we’ve got our health, nyet?” But it can only be momentary, and it’s always bitter.
I keep recalling the over-referenced words of Martin Luther King, Jr., that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Now that I have a longer view, I can see that this is mainly wishful thinking. (I bet even King would say so today.) We’re always on the verge of backsliding, returning to less equitable times, impinging on rights instead of expanding them, rolling back progress. And nukes. For the love of God, why has the human race apparently erred on the side of “nuclear war can be survived” rather than “it’s the end of the world as we know it”? Technology has blinded us to the inevitable horror.
We’ve seen that madmen can sometimes come to power. And when they do, they change the dynamics of everything. They seek to fulfill destinies and prophecies, to alter history. They make it seem like what they’re doing was meant to be. A return to mythical glory. The reclaiming of former greatness.
True hogwash, but nationalism ignites so many people it’s a tool that strongmen get a good grip on from the start.
The fact is, the world is depressing now, which makes me think of my brother, who died sixteen years ago this week. He was depressed, and almost anyone who knew him would say of course he was depressed; his life was a hot mess.
This essay gets into some ideas that probably apply: We’ve entered a new era, now that the post-WWII structures have evidently collapsed. It’s the age of restlessness. “Distrust is now ‘society’s default emotion,’” as the writer quotes from an annual survey’s conclusions. Our most stolid institutions have failed us. We can no longer believe “facts” at face value. Different realities have sprung up to suit different ideologies: Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB man, actually quotes scripture to justify his war in Ukraine, and Republican senators pretend that Ketanji Brown Jackson is a friend to child pornographers.
Feeling kind of blue (apologies to Miles Davis) is the least we can do to acknowledge the state of things, even if we do roll along with our lives and experience very few of the hardships and inequities imposed on so many others. That the bad guys seem to win more than the good guys needn’t impact our enjoyment of The Batman. Life goes on. But I think we’d be unwise and morally blind not to admit that things feel different now compared to, say, 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, when his campaign motto was one four-letter word: H O P E.