Sunél's Blog | It could be a long hot summer

Sunél Veldtman, | 02 February 2024

This year, the summer heat in Cape Town came early and has been relentless. It has become synonymous with wildfires - thousands of hectares of brittle Cape fynbos can be destroyed in hours.

This concept of threat and potential destruction is seen elsewhere too. 

More than half of the world’s population will vote in national elections this year. The most important of them is the USA, where Trump is likely to run a more polarising and incensing campaign.

In addition, the Russian war in Ukraine is entering its second year. The conflict in Gaza is likely to continue, and heightened conflict in the region involving Western powers is already seen. North Korea is making increasingly hostile noises about South Korea, as is China about Taiwan.

In Europe, far-right parties, opposing immigration, are winning ground. It comes with hard-line rhetoric and increasing protest action.

Locally, we will endure the most contested and important elections since 1994 with the ANC desperate to hold on to a majority. It is fertile ground for the messiest scramble for votes ever.

We have entered a watershed year. The old guard is resisting forces of renewal while a wave of nationalism and anti-capitalism is sweeping the globe.

If you feel overwhelmed, and even, dare we acknowledge, terrified, you are not alone. The geopolitical situation is disturbing. It is not unlike the wildfires we’ve been experiencing here in the Cape, where unfavourable wind conditions, limited resources and an overwhelmed rescue team could see whole regions destroyed.

I’m deliberately painting a daunting picture because we could easily get sucked into the news. I have often written about the impact of news on our lives. However, I think we find ourselves in new territory with the astonishing sophistication of fake news. Real news was difficult enough.

We must be careful to protect our inner landscape from the volatility and heat of the outer landscape more than ever. It will become unbearably hot at times, and we must be prepared to withstand the heat. We must make fire breaks in preparation. We must train our firefighting teams and set aside resources to protect our inner territory.

Protecting our inner landscape translates to taking breaks from the news, deliberately making time for fun and family away from the fear and turmoil. Even further, making time for silence, stillness and solitude – time to retreat to refocus and refresh. Diligently practise gratitude and seek out the good news. Stay away from disrespectful social media debates where you can get scorched. Focus on headlines instead of inflammatory and potentially fake news feeds.

Recognise that there are whole armies of real people, robots, and AI forces battling for your mind. I am not exaggerating when I point out that there is a PR team somewhere on the other side of the globe, intent on winning the battle for your support in their fight for funding and favour in a war you have little direct interest in. They have the tools to make you believe what they want.

Even seasoned fact checkers – it is a real job now – find it harder to reveal the truth. If you do not employ tools to protect your own mental clarity, your mind will be made up for you, and disturbed by all this turmoil.

You may make real-life decisions with false information stoking confusion and fear. It could have devastating financial implications.

Of course, we must care about the suffering of others, but it cannot consume the resources for our own lives.

This change in environment is not likely to be a short season. It may turn out to be a long, unbearably hot season. Make sure you’re well prepared ahead of time for the mental resources it will take to survive the heat.

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Kind regards,