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.


  1. I can relate to this post so much, I hate watching the news but I always do and it's full of awful and terrifying things, mostly in the name of 'peace'. It angers and upsets me that people don't seem to learn and carry on killing and doing disgusting things. How hard is it to for people to live in harmony - that sounds really sappy but how hard is it to not care that someone follows a different religion or is a different race? It's not rocket science.

  2. Continuing from my last post because the comment box was naughty.

    I am disgusted by the human race that innocent people are injured and killed and are getting dragged into political things. I can't even find words to describe how I feel about MH17 getting shot down because it was mistaken for a cargo plane - because that makes it okay? It all terrifies me.

  3. This is an amazingly written, and very thought provoking post. You are totally right that the majority of people generally and even moreso people our age I'm sure, are largely switched off to news and conflict that happens abroad. I know that I listen to headlines and find myself subconsciously listening for things going on in England, then Britain, then maybe Europe or USA but then feel really detuned to things going on in the wider world. I feel like 10 deaths in Britain is equal to say 1000 in a non-Western country before it gets the same headlines or generates the same kind of interest and I know I am a part of that because I can't imagine what it's like to live in Israel, or Ukraine, or whatever, so I don't have the same empathy when atrocities happen there. It must have been very affirming and real when you had a clear connection to an otherwise 'anonymous' feeling news story so I can understand what you are going through. Someone pointed out the other day that bloggers are so influential these days and have huge audiences of young women, and yet so few bloggers choose to educate their audiences or write about feminism, or current affairs, and so on - so I thankyou for using this space to write such a thought-provoking post. X

  4. Thank you for writing this. I have often chastised myself for dismissing news about conflicts abroad as mere headlines -- as stories about people who are too far away to seem real to me -- and yet despite feeling guilty about my lack of empathy, I have done nothing to try to change my ignorance. Reading a post like this, written by someone the same age as me, motivates me to open my eyes more to what is going on in the world around me. Thank you for being so real on this blog, and I hope you are feeling better!

  5. I highly recommend you do an Alpha course ( look it up ). So many questions and answers about why these atrocities happen might help you come to terms with it and help you cope better. Best thing I did. :)

    1. Is it a Christian course? I've never identified with any religion but I'll certainly look into it. Thanks for reading Panda :) x

  6. I'm so happy you wrote this. I too found myself completely affected by the crash. I found out the night before I was going back to work. I walked in and on the radio they were talking about it. I was baking in the kitchen and I couldn't take it anymore, I swear I was on the edge of tears. So I went upstairs for some fresh air and said to my colleagues, "I can't believe about that crash." They looked at me, blankly and said, "What crash?" Firstly, I was shocked that they didn't know about something like this, but what shocked me even more was when I explained what had happened and they shrugged it off like it was nothing and muttered, "Oh, oh well." I could hardly believe it. When the news came in the next day about the suitcases of the victims being raided I thought I was going to break down. Nobody could understand it. I'm sorry this has been a long comment but I'm glad I could identify with this so much. It gives me hope for other people. xx

    1. I was exactly the same, I tried to explain to people at work why I was so upset but none of them could understand why it had affected me so much when it pretty much had zero impact on my life at all. But it did, and all this does effect all of us - sometimes we can just be so blind we can't see it...

      Thank you for reading Jordan x

  7. This post hit me right in the heart. Throughout most of my life, I'd say until I was around 16 I actively avoided the news. I made a special effort, as terrible as it sounds to avoid papers, and news stations. Having grown up in a third world country, that was sometimes a bit war torn much too often the news hit close to home, and a face and name would show up in the obituary that was vaguely familiar. Having left that country now, and taken up Journalism (I know, eh?) at university, I've no longer been allowed to exist in my permanent state of ignorance and my oh my how an outlook has changed. The avoidance came more from fear. I knew what was in the news, but wanted to pretend it wasn't and everything was fine. Everything around me was always good. It wasn't, and at the ever mature, enlightened age of 18 now I can plainly say existing in ignorance is not the way to do it. Pretending things are fine wasn't, isn't and never will be the way to change the world.
    Thank you for writing this, it was beautifully written, thought provoking & all around a pleasure to inhale.

    x leah symonne x

    1. wow, this comment hit me right in the heart back... That's an incredible story, I had no idea of your past, you're an incredibly brave woman. Pretending everything is fine is the easy option that makes people happy in the short term, and in an age where instant gratification is everything I think we all cling to that and avoid negativity as much we can. But its a foolishly ignorant way to live, and living so detached from reality will ultimately be our downfall. Knowledge is power. x

  8. I think we all are ignorant when it comes to the news and what is really going on in the world :( but 'agent of hope' is such a lovely term - you really are. i think you are doing something by writing this and sharing your thoughts with us. hope you feel better bless you, you really have a big heart!

    1. Thank you so much Christina, if this empathy is anything to go by then I definitely have a big heart haha. I really hope that my words can somehow have an impact, thank you for reading x

  9. That feeling of being disconnected with the world is something i feel that deep down, our generation do feel. Thank you for opening up and saying what we feel. The plane crash really made my heart sink, it made me realise how we have no control what happens to us. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to guarantee my family will always be protected and I can't. It just makes you really think. I hope you recognise how many people would appreciate your words, your mentality and your love.

    1. That really is wonderful to hear, thank you so much. I've come to realise that keeping up this ideal that life is so wonderful and bright and positive is so great in some ways, but its somewhat damaging in other ways. Reality holds just as much darkness as light, just as much day as night. But I think sometimes only by recognising the badness, we can understand the need for greatness. Thank you for reading x

  10. I've always felt the same way, wondering why people are so unconcerned, but people are just so used to it that it doesn't phase them anymore. It's not shocking. We're becoming desensitized. I feel the same as you, so intensely empathetic that it can almost physically ache sometimes, but I've honestly just had to stop watching the news. I read it, because it's just... less. You don't have to hear media outlets go on, and on, and on about it. It's too much for me to handle, to get caught up in and I have to sort of disconnect myself from it. Sometimes I wonder if that's why people are so desensitized. If they broke down every time something happened, they'd be like that all the time, almost to the point that they may become irreparable. I really appreciate this post, though, and all of the comments people have made about feeling similar. We're apparently not all as alone in our thinking as we sometimes feel. xx

    1. I definitely think this desensitization is a defence mechanism, as so many people here are admitting they avoid the news and hearing of bad things in the world so they don't have to feel the pain of it too... it's selfish and ignorant but we all do it. I guess it's tricky because there;s a fine line between being able to appreciate and empathise with what's happening around the world, and needlessly suffering for those who are already suffering...

      Thank you for reading anyway x

  11. Hi, today was my first time to ever find or read your blog, and it was on a bit of a serious day, but it was so good. I wondered if anybody else felt the way I did. I think I try to place and keep myself in a state of ignorance so I won't have to accept or acknowledge how bad it can be out there, because when I do fear and panic well up so thick I cannot breathe. I have four little kiddos and I have to believe it's going to be ok, I have to find hope and grab onto it for dear life. Anyway, I thought it was a great post, well written and it did. It caused you stop and think, examine oneself, and maybe hug your loved ones a little bit tighter.

    1. Indeed perhaps a somber moment to stumble across my blog, but I'm really glad you kept reading and what I've written resonated with you. It's actually quite curious to see how many of us avoid the news because we can't handle the constant stream of negativity... but you're right, we all must have hope.

      Thank you for reading x

  12. Are you sure you're only 21? You sound so much more beyond your years. :)


    1. Haha I get this a lot, all I know is my body is 21 years old!

  13. I can relate to this post on so many levels. The horrors on the news have really affected me. I think some people are just more emotionally intelligent than others which has got be a good thing.

  14. I read the first two lines and knew instantly what this was about. Jeremy was oddly okay with the whole thing. The rest of the people here... Not so much. In terms of population percentage, MH17 has been a bigger hit on the Dutch than 9/11 was to America, and when you factor in how ludicrously interconnected Dutch society is, everybody knew somebody that lost someone.

    I was showing Sabrina around town when we walked past the library. It was the UVSV (the most prominent sorority) 'Lustrum' week, celebrating their 25th anniversary. Each day they'd all dressed up in their finest red frocks, poured most of the city's beer down the throats of themselves and their dates, and partied long and hard. On the Thursday there was none of that. We walked past their headquarters, and the street was filled with girls, all in black, most crying, some literally howling with grief. Two of their sorority mates had been on the flight, and several had lost friends, brothers and sisters. One of the girls was going travelling, taking a well earned break before beginning her masters, planning to see SE Asia, and Australia. The other was training to be a doctor, and was headed out to Malaysia to work voluntarily for four months treating the more rural populace.

    Like you, this is where it hit home for me. It is often, if not always, difficult to seriously, truly empathise with such tragedies in such far away and supposedly different places. However, I realised at that moment that a large number of those on that flight were young people like you and me, fresh out into the world, eager to see a little more of it. It's actually amazing that I didn't happen to know somebody on that flight - it could so very easily have been Jeremy, or another friend of mine, or even myself.

    This blog is among your best, I love that you've found your groove again. But please, I beg of you and your readers: don't chastise yourselves for being ignorant. Shame won't fix the problem, nor will it make you feel better. As you so rightly said: educate yourselves, and those around you. be patient with those that don't and won't understand, and always eschew cynicism. As much as we damage ourselves, I see much more love, happiness and laughter than I do pain and suffering.

    Much love Quakes.

    PP x

  15. Oh my goodness...what you must have felt - and certainly what your friend must have felt when he realised he had escaped such a terrifying end - must have been unbelievable. I followed the coverage quite closely as we have the news on all day in our office (though on silent...) and it was when I found an article with the faces of everyone who had perished that I felt so overcome with grief for people I had never met. With stories like that I can't help but sit and imagine what it must be like to never, ever see anyone again - to imagine what it must have been like to be on that plane, to know your own fate for a milisecond before death - to know you would never get married, see any more of the world, have children or leave your soon as you let yourself feel and think about these events it is awful - but I would rather feel and give those poor people and families a moment in my thoughts than be completely unaware, or to ignore it for the sake of a status update further down my facebook wall.

    I'm not sure if my comment above makes much sense but I just wanted to let you know I know what you mean - and really, really feel for you and your friend.

    I am often overcome with the realisation that life is scary, and short, and death is always imminent. But you have to show the good, and the life, or your time on the earth would be completely tarnished and limited.

    I'm waffling - this is very much a stream of consciousness - but oh, my goodness.

    What a thought provoking post.

    Jo xx

    She Wears Burgundy

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