Self-care in the age of Brexit
Many of us have been deeply impacted by the events surrounding this referendum. Politics has taken a grim turn, and we are now in a very toxic environment. David Cameron has resigned as Prime minister. Jeremy Corbyn faces a leadership coup. Hundreds of thousands of EU migrants now live in a world of doubt about their futures. Far right parties have been revitalised by a referendum result swung by protest votes. Even blood has been shed. For those involved in politics, there has never been a more important time to look after each other and our selves because the government is not going to anytime soon.
Within the Greens, like an echo I hear the words, “I need a break from politics.” More recently than ever, I have seen my Green friends openly admitting on social media how their mental health is strained. And I can fully sympathise. Just a year after a shock majority Conservative government took power, we had elections and a huge referendum to fight in less than two months. While there were some celebrations, it’s not surprising that many of us are exhausted and feeling cynical towards politics. The thought of a snap general election later this year is terrifying.
To mourn the UK’s relationship with the EU might appear privileged, especially while migrants fear deportation and the future of pensions and our economy is hugely uncertain. But ultimately, this outcome will impact all of our lives. It also reveals a growing frustration with politics in the UK. While The Green Party is an alternative to the status quo (we are frustrated with UK politics too), our society appears to be taking a frighteningly different trajectory towards a politics of fear, separation, and supremacy. It all seems a bit hopeless. For both remain and leave voters, the short-term outlook appears bleak and a concern for all.
The political mood is turbulent. Everywhere you look there is something to have an opinion on. What will happen to Corbyn? Should we have a second referendum? Should we be forming a progressive alliance with other parties? How about the leadership election(s)? I feel myself gasping for air when considering all that is unfolding. There are simply not enough hours in the day to be able to live a normal life, take care of yourself, and debate everything that is happening in the political realm when this referendum has proven how little control we have over how this country is run and whose voices are heard.
But like many others, I feel torn about my priorities. As Greens, we all want to contribute towards a positive change and ensure our future is protected from the worst of the Tories. We know that this is a now or never situation. If Article 50 is invoked, then we cannot allow Conservatives, UKIP and the right-wing Parliamentary Labour Party to determine the future of a post-Brexit United Kingdom. But at the same time, the pessimism surrounding our effectiveness is valid. Especially at a time when both energy and hope is dwindling, what can we really do to help?
While we might feel small as individuals, there are absolutely ways we can succeed and make positive change. This begins with our selves and at the local level. It is vital to remember that we cannot fight for social and environmental justice if we are not well. If we do not practice self-care while in the delicate state of political unease, it will stifle our recovery and prevent us from making the changes we want to. In which case, take some time away from activism: a day, a week, a month. Your wellbeing is more important than a single campaign.
We must also acknowledge our camaraderie in the Greens. In such a humid political climate, tensions may rise. But we are in this together, and we can only succeed by working with each other, not against each other. When we look at the bigger picture, personal feuds pail in insignificance compared to the wars that are waged by the establishment. This is a time to support each other with our difficulties within our regional groups, committees, local parties, and friends. Our energy needs to be for organising. Although the upcoming leadership elections will reveal our differences in opinion, let there be positive campaigns and applaud whoever be the victor. (We have some great candidates this year!)
We need to direct our activism where it matters and can make a difference. While the political furore is focused on Westminster and national issues, Greens have the power to make waves on the local level, and that is where we have the chance to make a difference in the short term. Council by-elections give us the chance to exercise our election strategies and gain experience for new members just starting to get involved. Getting organised in our local parties means we simultaneously support each other and help the party progress. The results will be visible with the positive swings in the elections and the enhanced reputation locally. It takes good local reputation for the results to be shown nationally. Being active in your area and speaking to people face to face is often the best thing you can do for the party.
These times appear desolate, but I want to give hope to members old and new. There is no time limit on our activism if we look after each other within our communities, and the results will show in the future. My main piece of advice if you feel tired from politics, but still want to be active, is to reach out to your local group. Each group has a strategy and will appreciate your offer of time more than you might expect. In return, you can expect a community of like-minded people there to support you. While this past referendum has reinvigorated the far right, it’s time let it invigorate your experience within your local Green Party.