My Mental Conflict of Social Issues in Isolation
Conflict has been a recurrent theme for me mentally during lockdown. I was in the middle of my second semester of my first year as a mental health nursing student and two weeks into a placement in substance misuse services. There was conflict in the information we received about the complexity and severity of the virus across all media platforms and all governments and as a result, everyone had conflicting opinions on the right course of action. On top of this, I had nurses from my placement, my mentors and peers, who spoke of sensationalism and fear mongering while the university and student authorities struggled to make a decision on what to do with us. Do they pull us from our placements and jeopardise our education and training, or keep us in there and risk not only our own physical and mental health but that of the vulnerable people in our care by placing their safety in the hands of unqualified students? There were mixed feelings from my classmates, some of whom were understandably worried and confused, others that felt an overwhelming need to be out there on the front line, and those, like me, who were conflicted by the two rationales.
I occupied myself as I always have done, in music. In addition to my remaining uni assignments, I endeavoured to write, record and perform as much music as I could. I encouraged my friend to carry on leading his weekly open mic digitally, and attended 19/20 weeks. I rummaged through my old, tattered lyrics books, relearning and rediscovering forgotten songs and the emotions and messages behind them. I collaborated with a group of friends, writing and recording music remotely. And I also reached out to several friends, encouraging them to use this time to learn an instrument or develop their music skills. I spent about 8 hours a day in the music room working on these projects. And things were going great…
Until George Floyd’s life was ended at the hands of the authorities whose solemn promise was to protect us.
Like many others the world over, I was outraged. I took to social media to express my disdain for systemic racism and vowed to educate myself and put measures in place to continuously check my privileges and my influence on society. One of the core beliefs in the care sector that I’m in training to be a part of, is equality. I believe I have a responsibility to be a part of the movement for lasting, effective change. On the surface, conflict doesn’t appear be involved in this. The message from the Black Lives Matter movement is that we all have a duty to actively combat racism and systemic inequality for all. But as I studied the route causes such as colonialism and imperialism, I became angered and frustrated by capitalism. As far as I could see, capitalism benefited the rich and super rich. Its sole purpose was to conserve those benefits by instilling systems that were not only detrimental but complacent of the safety and wellbeing of the majority of the Earth’s population. I agreed with the sentiment that attempting to make changes to a system built on corruption was futile, and thus a new fairer system should be designed. But what about the social gains that capitalism has given us. The MRI machine that detected the tumours growing in my mother’s body as well as in millions of people all over the world. Scientific revolutions that could only be realised by billion-dollar investments by the world’s richest inhabitants such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Elon Musk. In this I found another conflict.
Delving further into my privileges, I experienced even more mental conflict in the issues of inter-sectionalism; political disparity, feminism, classism, forensics, the war on drugs etc. I was overwhelmed by the ambivalence in my calling to activism and the feeling of powerlessness, an insignificant one in seven billion. What was I to do? What was my role? My responsibility? I wanted to discuss these issues and the thoughts I was having about them, but social media presented further conflict for me, class discussions were too few and far between, and I wasn’t allowed to leave my house to talk to people face to face.
That’s when advice from my friends, family, classmates, lectures and everyone else I sought counsel from, sank in.
I needed to give myself a break.
I still feel conflict daily, but now I understand that this is okay. I cannot single-handedly change the world and I shouldn’t expect myself to do so. I now understand my role and responsibility a little better, and while those may change and develop over time, for now, in this moment I am making small, positive steps towards a better world. A world that is unlikely to ever be free from conflict but is increasingly more tolerant of diversity and the discrepancy between beliefs, values and morals. In writing my thoughts and sharing them and in my work as a musician and health care worker, I hope to contribute (however marginally) to the ever-progressing civility of the modern world. Those whose beliefs contrast with mine are not evil, but different. Yes, we absolutely must continue to fight in the corner of those whose voices are not heard. Yes, we absolutely must continue to educate ourselves and others on the ethereal values of equality, tolerance, and respect. And yes, we absolutely must hold those who commit atrocities to account. However, we can only achieve equilibrium by continuous self-improvement, increased cognisance of our personal impact on society as a whole, and by engaging in self-care activities to ensure our influence on this world is compassionate, abiding and effective. Therein lies my role, my responsibility, and my calling