On August 4, 2020, a stream of heavy smoke rises into the hazy blue sky before it is quickly replaced by the eruption of a red mushroom cloud. The cloud is then obstructed by a circle of debris, smoke, and sheer force. The screen shakes as the cameraperson turns and runs from the blast rushing at them. I scroll down. Images of destruction, death, fear, and heartbreak fill my feed. Beirut, the capital of my native Lebanon, stands shellshocked and bleeding.
My uncles were supposed to be working in Beirut that day. Through a lucky stroke of fate, they were both in Saida, well away from the blast, when it happened. The rest of my family was also, thankfully, spared. The nation was not so lucky. The explosion was the last nail in the coffin for a country struggling with an economic crisis, food shortages, corruption, and a global pandemic.
I’d already grown familiar with the feeling of helplessness in 2020, with a myriad of tragedies and crises making each week feel like a new level of Jumanji. Yet, seeing that explosion in Beirut and fearing for the life and future of my extended family down in Lebanon deepened that helplessness for me. It was as if I was watching the Titanic slowly sink into the frigid waters of the Atlantic, unable to help from afar.
I spent weeks after that explosion worrying about how Lebanon – and the world in general – would be able to recover from the calamities that 2020 has so “generously” dished out, from the global economic crisis to the scourge of racism and police brutality to the continuing issue of climate change. Thinking about how my family, friends, and society would move forward in a world that has to solve all these immense problems paralyzed me at night.
The need for change is glaringly obvious, but as a sociology and political science student, I know that real change isn’t easy, simple, or peaceful. True progress requires people to fight for it and do the hard work of dismantling and rebuilding these deeply entrenched societal systems and philosophies. Rebuilding society, however, is an immeasurably difficult task. So, when I look at my own future, and the future of Canada and the world, I recognize that it will be filled with hardship, struggle, and pain. It also all feels very overwhelmingly. These are world-destroying issues, all compounded into the span of 6 months! The effects of which have already wreaked more havoc on the world than in recent history. As a result, the feeling of helplessness grows, becoming a reading companion each time I open up a social media platform and check in on the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for you dear reader. There is no quote or optimistic idea I can offer you to alleviate the helplessness that you may feel. All I can offer is the comfort of knowing that you are not alone in feeling this way, and the advice that meaningful action can help others and combat helplessness – whether it is through donations, volunteering, or sharing information. I’d also urge you to find ways to remind yourself of humanity’s capacity for good, such as laughing with your friends, enjoying a song, or watching wholesome videos. Essentially, endeavour to look for the spark of light in this rapidly darkening world.
And know that The Medium is here for you. Writing and sharing your thoughts or opinions on issues that matter to you can be very cathartic and rewarding, so please consider writing for us if you think that sharing will help you feel less helpless. If you are interested in writing for us, please reach out.
Now, more than ever, we need to strive to be kind to each other to make it through this literal hell of a year.