the dangers of burnout
The last few weeks and months have been draining for everyone here on the activist front. We see lies being spread without regard for anyone. Refugees and IPAs feel the pressure of racist protests and the people helping them are struggling to make sure that everyone is ok. IPAS is threatening people to get out of the direct provision centres, depression is looming on all fronts.
Burnout: a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
I wanted to start this blog post with the definition of what many of us are feeling right now, and I must be honest and tell you that a lot of that is what I feel now too.
It started with the emergence of the far right elements who have been active for a few years already. Mostly seen as trolls on Twitter, and started off by the ridiculous and often racist tweets by Gemma O’Doherty, the disgraced journalist.
A few months ago, I was attacked on Twitter for standing with refugees, and because my name is not Irish, I was told to go ‘back to my poxy country’, how dare I ‘take the money of Irish tax payers to pay myself a big salary, and tell the Irish what to do’.
Recently the attacks returned, hundreds of them.
(I am a community worker, paid half time, working triple time, my children are Irish, so was their father, only I, as all Belgian women, kept my father’s name as my surname)
I will spare you the worst comments, some of them really hideous. I stopped reading, just blocked and carry on. Everyone reassured me that it was just a tiny minority, that they will never win, etc etc. And all that is true, but the tiny minority has now become increasingly noisy, and their lies have touched a chord with those who struggle to make ends meet and want to blame someone for it. And the someones are now refugees and asylum seekers.
What hurts me very hard is that I consider the refugees and IPAs to be my second family, with who I hang out the most, as I can’t afford to travel to Belgium to meet up with my first family, because of the cost of it all.
The lies that are being told are not just lies, they cut deep into the hearts of the people that are targeted. The people who have fled wars, persecution, murder and rape.
The ‘unvetted single men’ I know, are all lovely young people, or not-so-young married men who have had to leave their families behind and are hoping to bring them over as soon as possible. They too have daughters, sisters, mothers and wives, who they desperately want to bring to safety. These friends would not dream of hurting a soul.
Yesterday I was rehearsing with Citadel in the direct provision centre in Cork, and I was told that depression is rife there, women are staying in their rooms, only to come out if absolutely necessary, children are wondering when the protests will come to them, men are telling me they had suicidal thoughts, and while all this is going on, the government parties are talking about taking a hard line with ‘false asylum claims’, threatening people with homelessess and not showing an ounce of sympathy of those who have been desperately looking for housing. we all know there is a housing crisis, and everyone suffers from it, including those in direct provision who received their papers to stay in Ireland (around 4000 of them) and who cannot find homes. I know one woman who has reacted to 1400 ads since before COVID without success. If someone offers a viewing, there are at least 60 other people viewing the same property. This lady has 2 children, one is in University the other is doing her junior cert this year. Does the government really think these people choose to be in an overcrowded centre where they have no freedom of movement, very little security and no quiet place to study?
Then the remarks of Varadkar talking about the foreigners coming in ‘unannounced’. What is that about? Simon Harris with his hard-line approach? Some people still waiting for the decision on their undocumented regularisation application.
It all becomes too much for some, and that is what the far right is hoping for.
Two men have contacted me in the past week saying they had suicidal thoughts, I am doing my best to help them.
I have a lot of international contacts in the refugee community, and I got some devastating news there too.
One man who walked for over a month to get to Switzerland in an attempt to get out of the refugee camp in Uganda where he has been staying in a little dwelling with a leaking roof with his wife and two children, was just told his application in Switzerland was refused and he will be deported to Croatia. He ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Croatia, where he only has memories of racism; he wanted to secure a safe future for his kids, his plans are halted now. He has no clue how this will end.
I got the more bad news that I cannot mention here now because of court procedures that I don’t want to mess with.
And then, on the other hand, I was told by some people of the black community who were sharing some harsh transphobic and homophobic messages and videos, that I should not comment on them, because I am too white, when I was only standing up for members of the LGBT communities all over the world.
Too white for some, others say they never saw a white person that was so black, and I honestly do not care too much about my colour, I just want the hate and the injustices to end. We seem to be going down a slippery slope and it is affecting everyone.
It is time we all calm down and rebuild our world in a fair and equal way. Leave the begrudging behind. See people for who they really are, and build a new Ireland, a new Europe with people of all colours and backgrounds, and Ireland with Travellers and migrants involved in decision making too, a place where nobody blames another fragile community for the mistakes of those who govern us, a place where we can all thrive and be happy, where NGOs are not necessary because the state provides…. I know it is UTOPIA.
I am burnt out, and I have been tempted to quit, but then I saw the faces of the ones I love, the flowers I got from one person I helped, the smiles on the faces of the musicians in Citadel when the applause erupts, the desperate call from a man who arrived seeking asylum who is homeless now, the resilience of the people staying in the hotels where the protests are taking place in front of them, the people going to Welcome Refugees counter-protests, the poems of the good people of Ireland, like Dave Lordan, and I know I just have to carry on.
And so should you! Let’s keep going, tell the truth (my first article of truths will be in the Opinion next Thursday), we will restart the podcast with truths, and will keep fighting.
Come to the next protest and show your solidarity!
A Luta Continua