I've gone through life implicitly believing in key notions of the Enlightenment: reason, knowledge, freedom, skepticism. Sure there were ongoing --but solvable-- problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, unequal resource distribution, war. Still, I assumed things would inexorably get better. Progress was slow, and many tried to stop it. But I believed in the struggle for justice, certain of the triumph of the good. All would be well, if we just kept working to make it so. The 'we' is those enlightened folks, like me, who know how things ought to be.
Then, BOOM. Explosions rock my foundations. Trump is elected. Brexit is approved. Far right leaders take power in Hungary, the Philippines, Brazil, Turkey, Italy. Israel tightens its grip on the Occupied Territories and moves closer to theocracy. Putin re-starts the Russia dominance dance. All this is the result of free democratic elections, leaders chosen by the popular will, not through coups. The people spoke, and what they said, to persons of my ilk, is unspeakably retrograde.
It's impossible to predict what the world will be like even twenty-five years from now. For along with straightforward choices by the vox populi, the horrors of global climate breakdown imperil the very existence of the earth. It is undeniably the case that we are in danger of making our planet uninhabitable. Whether you believe this or not is irrelevant; it's true.
So this is where I, a woman in my seventies, find myself: a US citizen who can barely contain my rage at Trump's psychopathic daily cruelties; an inhabitant of London where Brexit's impending arrival threatens the stability of a fragile, small, pleasing but not very significant country; a Jew anguished by what's done in the name of insuring that never again are Jews victims; a climate activist who can barely comprehend what I can do to make things better; an urban, Jewish, educated cosmopolitan stranded in an increasingly populist world.
Futility is not an option, so I continue to engage. The realization that much of my personal narrative has played out raises the questions: how can my diminishing narrative space allow for room to make a positive impact on the crazy stories which define this time? What is the point of my Third Age journey as I work above all to survive, and next to make meaning.