“Aftershock” by Pattrice Jones. A discussion of trauma and how to recover from it, of the intersection of the ‘isms, a look at what we can do to avoid or deal with burn out, and what we can do to make a difference right now.
It is a lot to cover, but Pattrice approaches it in a way that is very accessible, and very personal. Reading “Aftershock” felt more like sitting down with a cup of coffee or tea with a good friend and having a heartfelt discussion than reading a book that realistically makes a good guide for psychologists dealing with aftershocked activists.
A sanctuary may be a place or a relationship. The safe-enough physical space is a place where the activist can just be, without worrying about demands or dangers.
Pattrice got my attention right away, when she talked about depression. I’ve suffered from periodic depression since I was a young child, something that was not trauma related, something I should probably get professional help for, and which at this point I imagine to be chemical, something built-in to my brain. Listening to someone who I knew could relate, personally, with depression made me listen with that much more confidence in what she’d have to say.
And the same was true when she discussed her activism. Here is someone who has been there. She has high qualifications, both from her education in school, as well as her education in life.
She doesn’t just talk about trauma and depression. She discusses ways we can keep ourselves and the people and earth around us healthier. She discusses the connections between all of these things, and in such a way it seems incredibly obvious. She talks about the importance of community.
Like broken bones, cracked cultures rarely right themselves. We have to take action against fracture.
Pattrice connected sexism and racism and classism and environmentalism in a very convincing way. I might be forgetting some of the ‘isms in my list of connections she made. If I wasn’t already vegan, she would have done a good job of getting me closer. She did convince me to be more dedicated about taking care of my health, and she also convinced me to take a close look at my life and make some changes that affect my energy and water consumption, as well as limit my vehicle emissions. It’s not that I’ve been unconcerned about the environment, it is just that I know I could do more than I have been doing, right now.
I’ll start going to NYC by bus, instead of driving. I’ll do a better job of tackling the public transit in my area. I’m already looking at energy providers – I have the option of paying a little more for 100% green energy. I’ll change all of my light bulbs to the energy-saving fluorescent kind. There are so many little things like this we can do, and Pattrice’s reminder came at a good time for me.
Taking care of my world, as well as myself, is a renewing process all on its own. Creating community is something I try to do, and I know that my friends are the reason I got through my dark time this fall. (you know who you are. i can’t say often enough or strong enough how much it means that you were there for me. thank you.)
Everybody’s pain is real. Everybody’s pain is meaningful to them. No, the trauma of the undercover investigator who observes monkeys being tortured is not as acute as the suffering of the monkeys themselves. But it is not “nothing.” All suffering is real and meaningful, particularly to the being enduring it. Every social change movement must embrace an ethos of empathy for all – including ourselves.
This book was both a reminder of things I know but am lazy about, as well as a directed explanation for how we, activists making ourselves vulnerable to aftershock, can help each other and be helped. How we can recover from aftershock and prevent burnout, how we can get help if we or someone we know is thinking about suicide. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to those who are out there, who have been out there, who will be out there, or who know someone who puts themselves out there.
We are not alone. We’re not the only species on earth or even the only sentient animals. It might feel like giving something up to recognize your kinship with, and therefore obligation toward, nonhuman animals. But you always gain more than you lose when you take a broader view of your family tree.
* all quotes are from Pattrice Jones’ book, “Aftershock”.