Presentist paralysis and the desire for a more loving future

The world is scary, but we should not hide from it anymore

Halloween is quickly creeping upon us, and I wish the scariest thing terrorizing my dreams were goblins, ghouls and the other creatures that stalk the night. Ultimately, my heart is haunted by an ever-growing impending sense of a doomed future.

I have found myself brushing my teeth, writing, sitting in classes, even being amongst friends and having cold dreadful questions penetrate my heart, mind and soul: “what am I doing here? What is the purpose of any of this?”

My pre-existing and seemingly never-ending dread stems from high housing and food prices alongside unsustainable wages in Canada, the country being on fire, the recurring pushes to privatize social services the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government made, over 600 days of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the ongoing 75-year conflict between Israel and Palestine — and the list goes on.

What has pushed me to write are the most recent attacks on Gaza, which is referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza is under a sea, land and air blockade that completely restricts Palestinian mobility and their access to electricity and clean water. Earlier this month, Israel ordered a complete siege of the area, preventing food, fuel, water and medical supplies from entering Gaza and only recently agreeing to conditionally allow aid in.

In Gaza since Oct. 7, thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

Escape from the airstrikes and war is made close to impossible for Palestinian civilians because of the limited exit ways out of Gaza. This is a humanitarian crisis — and the word “crisis” should not be taken lightly — which, as stated by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, borders the definitions of genocide. A United Nations (UN) expert has labelled what is happening in Gaza as an ethnic cleansing.

When I hear the words “crisis,” “genocide” and “war crimes,” I expect an enormous call to action and demands to protect human rights and to protect lives. Yet, there is a lack of discussion and national coverage of the atrocities being committed in Gaza against Palestinians.

My bones feel so heavy and my heart feels empty as I learn more and more. The phrase “information just washes over me” doesn’t describe my feelings. It implies this information doesn’t affect me and that it can just be brushed aside and ignored.

This information cannot and should not be ignored. Information and horrors of the world we live in do not flow over us like water. These horrors are sap. They are sap that seeps into our pores and oozes under our skin. These horrors will never let us go. They will follow us and they will catch up with us.

I cannot turn away from the horrors and injustices in this world. They scare me, they make me want to run away and hide under my blankets with a flashlight until the morning sun comes. But I cannot just sit and wait for the future to come to me. A future of repeated injustices and reproduced oppression is not a future I want to imagine for myself to live in.

We cannot sink into the manufactured comfort of our suburbanite safety blankets. I wish I was able to say things will get better or things will go back to normal as a sense of comfort, but I know things will never go back to normal. There was never a normal. Our world is a revolving door of chaos and  we must find ways of navigating through it.

Even with this heaviness in my bones, I still hold on to hope and the desire for a better, more loving and kind future. I have dedicated myself to finding a better future for myself and the people around me on this chaotic planet.

Instead of trying to find hope in a non-existent safe past, why don’t we look toward the future with risk? Together, by facing horror head-on we may create a better world slowly but surely by taking a chance on those risks that lie beyond our existing ideas of safety.

I don’t have the answers to make the world better. I am still looking, and maybe I will never stop looking, but this lack of an answer gives me hope. We are not confined to one image of the future, but multiple. Instead of reproducing existences we’re comfortable with, let’s allow ourselves to imagine new realities and strive toward them.