New Year, same crippling anxiety about the world

Welcome to 2020! Australia is on fire and the Trump administration seems to have jump started World War III. And that’s just the western world, let’s not get into what’s happening in India. A week in, and it’s not looking good.

The start of a new decade has arrived with a wash of anxiety. This year has none of the positive associations of a fresh start, I am not eagerly planning my new year’s resolutions. Instead I’m anxiously thinking about the news. Terrifying headlines have long been a staple of the news industry but now it all feels far more potent and real. The world seems to have become an increasingly scary place. For me at least, probably not for any cis white men.

Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s the worldwide return of fascism? Who can say?

Jokes aside my ever-growing pessimism about the fate of the world, and my place in it, was confirmed on the 12th December. I knew better but, in the weeks leading up to the election I couldn’t stop myself from starting to hope. How could I not, especially at the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn as our Prime Minister. The idea that we as a society, could put others first for once. That people could stop thinking about their taxes and rather on fixing the damage that years of austerity have done. The platform that Labour campaigned on was radical, especially in comparison to the racist fear mongering tactics embraced by Johnson and his lot.

So, when the Tories won with an overwhelming majority it was a major blow for me. Since Brexit in 2016 I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of fear. As an immigrant, I was always aware of the reality of my life in Britain.

My name is often mispronounced in an ever-increasing number of outrageous ways. My chances of getting a job, of receiving promotions would always be slighter than that of my white peers. These were things I had accepted. But now I feel a real fear. The fear of how quickly it can turn from the pointed question of ‘where are you really from?’ to the violence of ‘go back to where you come from’. Some may accuse me of taking politics too personally, but politics are undeniably personal. It is not some distant phenomenon that only involves us when the election rolls around. Whatever happens in parliament has a direct impact on our daily lives. Those that argue otherwise occupy the privileged position of being unaffected by the policies implemented. I, like many others, am without that safety net.

The general political atmosphere in both Britain and the world has given permission for people to loudly attack immigrants and Muslims in public without recrimination. In the days after the election I had seen multiple instances of hate attacks on twitter, so many so that on my journey back to London for the holidays I was anxious. I was afraid that I would see such an instance or that it would even happen to me.

So, you can see how the start of the decade seems incredibly bleak.

Not only do I feel unwelcome in my own country, there seem to be no better options. In India, Muslims are being stripped of the citizenship, students who protest are being attacked. America is, well, America. And let’s not forget the worldwide existential threat of climate change. All in all, it’s no wonder it’s hard to sleep at night. I doubt I’m alone in my cynical outlook, it is easy to focus on the negative when it’s surrounding you on all sides.

Despite this, it seems vital to remember that people do care and want to take a stand. The other day I was on the bus and I saw a group of people gathered on Princes Street. They stood in the cold Edinburgh evening with signs proclaiming, “NO WAR WITH IRAN”. It is people like that, that create a sense of optimism. The sense that maybe not everything is doomed, and people can be good. Instances like this one are important reminders, especially in times like this.

I’m aware that parts of my life remain incredibly privileged. Right now, I’m a bystander to some of the atrocities occurring today rather than a victim. The anxiety I currently feel is nothing compared to the fear experienced daily by vulnerable people around the word. I want to resist being overwhelmed by the negative and focus on the ways I can utilise my own privilege into forms of active resistance. I don’t want to just live with the cynicism.

I’ve come to realise that cynicism is useless, it robs you of your ability to act. It causes an outlook where everything seems inevitable and so there is no use in even attempting resistance. I’m right to be afraid, the world is undeniably scary right now. But this year, and even decade, I refuse to allow for that fear and cynicism to cripple me and take away my agency.


Image:Ninian Reid via Flickr

By Firyaal Chowtee

Voices Editor