Friday 25 July 2014

The Brute Force of Sudden Un-Ignorance

If I had to pinpoint the one thing about myself I resent more than anything else, I know exactly what it would be.

I have an absolutely devastating, dehumanising inability to deal with sorrow.

I just... stop.

Whilst my subconscious mind is buzzing away in the far reaches of my brain, desperately trying to find light in the troubling situation, urgently seeking out the very well concealed positivity I like to believe is still somehow there... my conscious mind goes on hiatus, and I simply cease to function as a human being.

I just blank.

And that's exactly what my past couple of days have been.

And it's sure as hell not easy trying to explain why.

But here goes.


This might be a sweeping generalisation, but I'd say the majority of people my age, in my situation, in my location and my circumstance, have an incredibly detached view of the state of the world.

Perfect case in point here, being me.

We might catch a snippet of the evening news as we're leaving the door to go meet our friends for drinks, see viral clickbait articles that are often highly misleading, using shameless sensationalisation to grab our attention as we scroll aimlessly through our Facebook news feeds, or happen to see the odd 140-character summary of global current affairs mingled in between snarky subtweets, Vines of kids getting in the face by basketballs and the latest 'MUST SEE!' in-car song parody.

And on us, the legitimacy of impact and genuine importance of these messages just get completely lost among the tired old shock tactics and half-smirk-raising tawdry humour that seems to fuel social networks.

Perhaps it's an inherent reaction to feign ignorance when it comes to bad news, but I know myself that when I first hear of some of the atrocities happening in the world, or a sudden catastrophic event that occurs, I have been moved to a point of perhaps moderate sadness and despair at best, before I put my down my phone, pack my bag and head to band practise or out to dinner, the knowledge of what I've just read completely slipping away, demoted to a platform of more or less irrelevance in the hierarchy of information in my mind.

Because the truth is, however much I despise myself for admitting this; because the majority of these things do not effect our everyday lives, they do not resonate with our everyday minds.

And it's nigh on impossible to appreciate the gravity and implications of some things of the things which happen in the world, when they are not happening to you.

So perhaps this was a long-time-coming kind of karma that caused my subconsciously ignorant view of this world to shatter into a million pieces this time last week.

'Cause there's nothing quite something happening a little too close to home, to serve as an absolute sledgehammer of reality.

I was still in that weary morning state of semi-consciousness, waning to and fro between either side of being awake and being asleep, when I first heard the news of flight MH17.

I was at James', and despite him having left for work a few hours prior, his flatmate was working from home that day, and through the crack in the door I could see him perched tentatively on the arm of the sofa, fixated on the television. I couldn't see the screen but I could hear the reporter loud and clear.

"I repeat... breaking news this morning as a passenger jet carrying almost 300 innocent civilians, holiday-makers and children has been shot down over Ukraine by pro-Russian rebels, leaving no survivors... truly horrifying news, and another tragedy for Malaysian Airlines less than four months after another aircraft in their fleet mysteriously disappeared, leaving a further 300 more feared dead..."

That certainly pulled me from my slumber.

I listened, and I stared, my eyes flitting from side to side and blind at once, my mind visualising the true horror or what I was hearing, and the true implications of this act of brutally open warfare.

But it didn't hit me fully until later that day.

Throughout my journey across London heading home, the story seemed to follow me - I listened intently to the radio report in the cab, caught glimpses of it on TV screens as I passed, read about it all over the internet on the train - and the more I saw, this bubbling, liquid dread began to seep into my bloodstream and slowly begin to rot away at me, taking a stranglehold on my heart.

I then had to go work for a 12 hour shift - which usually when something is dominating my mind, I actually enjoy. The constant monotony of routine, repetitive tasks seems to occupy the more frantic and erratic portions of my mind and allows me a little clarity, time to sharpen my thoughts and hone my ideas.

 But not when my mind is in turmoil.

And on my mid-shift break I saw something which pushed me to breaking point.

The flight had departed from Amsterdam Schiphol - an airport I had stood in only a few months prior when I'd visited my best friend Pistol and all his Dutch friends - wonderful people who have since become very  good friends of mine, many of which I've met up with in London, and who make up our Glastonbury group each year.

Despite a large proportion of the passengers on the flight being Dutch, it never really crossed my mind that anyone I knew could have been in any way involved.

Then I saw one photo on Facebook which, for want of a better term, completely and utterly fucked me the fuck up.

It was a screenshot of an e-ticket for flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur posted by Pistol's housemate, who I'd met and partied with in Utrecht when I'd visited. An Australian who was studying abroad in Holland, who's year was up and who was due to head home back to Australia via Kuala Lumpur, but had decided at the last minute to change his plans and take that exact flight, but a week earlier.

He was supposed to be on that flight.

And like that, this pooling dread consumed the last dwindling embers of warmth in my soul, and it felt as though this sheet of sparkling creeping ice had finally covered that last remaining inch of my skin and solidified as whole, and in doing so, tore open a gateway through my ignorance.

I'm scarcely able to find the exact words to describe what it felt like, but it was though I were suddenly inflicted with crippling empathy of the entire world all at once.

It was not even the depth of sorrow and pain and fear at the state of the world which consumed me, it was the sheer breadth.

It was as though I suddenly became aware of everything I'd been so ignorantly, pseudo-peacefully blind to before - the atrocities in Gaza and Palestine, the thousands of innocent children across the world being slaughtered in the name of so called 'Peace', the fact human life is being used outrageously indiscriminately as if it were just the currency of war, a tally chart for the astronomically fucked up people in control to try and one up each other with.

Like I'd opened up a blistering portal of harrowing truth, these almost pre-cognitive knowledges seemed to pour down from the stars themselves, a swirling vortex channelled directly into my heart and my mind and I saw the state of humanity as far removed as I possibly could be. I was observing as if I were no longer human, too ashamed to belong to a race capable of perpetuating such horror, such hate and such cruelty that I had ostracised myself from the race altogether, choosing instead to become a collection of sorrowfully wise dust gazing upon the state of humanity from afar.

I saw us then as a race so cripplingly fascinated by our own oblivion, obsessed with the idea of our own extinction that we spend our realities finding new inventive ways and reasons to mercilessly slaughter one another, and fill our surrealities with fictional depictions of the impending apocalypse, constructing multi-million dollar enterprises on the various fictional ideas of how inevitably we are going to end up killing ourselves and our planet in the meantime.

I saw us as critically flawed beyond any hope of salvation, too technologically advanced and too preoccupied with warfare to do anything but bite our nails, counting down the days until some corrupt fucker in power gets a little too pissed off for their own good and damns us all to eternal oblivion by getting a bit too trigger happy with a nuke.

And I could feel the suffering of every life that had been lost in vain, the pain of every person who had suffered such loss during the pursuit of this elusive peace that will never be achieved while there are people who live to fight and are willing to die doing so. I felt the sorrow of the rest of the citizens of these nations who are branded by the actions of so few, who languish in despair as they are labelled as the enemies, when in fact, they are united by a common desire so powerful that they would never realise until it's too late...

...And then I was back to reality, a 21-year old white female born and raised in middle class western Europe, bent double in the stock room of a chain restaurant with her hand steadying herself against the wine rack as she felt the entire force of humanity's despair surging through her being all at once.

"What's wrong with you?" My manager scoffed jestingly as I'd just about pulled the pieces of myself back together in a convincing enough arrangement to return to the bar. "Christ you look miserable. Look, finish early today, don't want you moping around the place." He said with a wry smile I simply could not return.

I finished work, got to my car and I wept.


And that's where I have been these past few days. Recovering from an absolute assault of the soul, a violation by truth.

Now no longer the powerfully crippling empathetic strain of quite literally feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, it's more of a 'calm after the storm' dampness of heart, slowly and quietly haunted by the fact that the world is falling to pieces, and there's a staggering amount of nothingness that I can do about it.

And so you see, I don't write this like I normally write blog posts.

For now, there is no happy conclusion, a paragraph that can sum it all up to make it all good again.

And for that I apologise.

But it's because this isn't a wrong which can be righted with a few words, a flaw in my character I can suddenly acknowledge and become a better person because of it.

This is so much bigger and more powerful than any of that.

And I am afraid.

For the first time in my life, I am scared for the future.


I believe that true enemy here is ignorance, and however painful it may have been to lose that, I feel a change in me having done so. A new depth to myself. (Hell, when would I ever have thought I'd be blogging about politics and war.)

I truly believe, knowledge is power.

And you know... I started this post out of desperation. I'd tried everything to try and save myself from this torment, but I think I always knew the only way I was going to pull myself back together was to write about it.

Now I finish this post in a sate of catharsis - a clean blank slate void of clouded sentiments or feelings either way, yet still framed by this new knowledge from my deflowered ignorance.

And in the center of this clean slate, there's a little spark. A tiny little fizzling pinprick of light and energy.

I'm not there yet, but slowly my thoughts are beginning to relocate and formulate themselves around this spark, and there's a little something that I can only just about recognise now, which gives me hope. That instills in me a faith about this world and of mankind that a few days ago I was sure I would never see again.

And in times of sorrow, in times of such despair when you truly are powerless to do anything... sometimes hope is all you've got. And we cannot live our lives focusing on all we are at a loss of, we have to learn to build and grow and flourish on what we do have.

And if there's one thing I always want to do, one thing I always want to represent and convey even if it means going to hell and back inside my own mind and coming back armed with the experience and lesson to match, is to somehow, in one way or another, forever be an agent of hope.

For now, I'm perhaps not doing much to live up to that.

But in my eyes, it' a darn sight better than being fatally flawed by ignorance.

And what kind of place would the world be if we all just fell apart?

There mightn't be anything we can do to stop the pain or help those who suffer, but we can't let these things consume us entirely, because if we all did, and just surrendered to the futility of it all, then we're screwed anyway. And now that I can review this situation with a fresh perspective, I don't think we are. I have hope and I have faith that diplomacy can prevail, that humans are inherently good people, and just as we can be capable at times of such horror, we can be capable of such incredible kindness and greatness too.

 And I think the most important thing we can do is to accept the badness in the world, acknowledge those corrupt, horrifying humans and what they are doing, and do our best to counter it. Put back into the world positivity, light, compassion, heart and hope, so that despite not being able to stop the darkness, at least we can show that there is and always will be, light too.