August 2014

This was written in August to be translated for my column in the Swedish Goteborgs-Posten.

Some things are best met with silence. If I were to proceed with this month’s column in an honest way, it would be a blank page, without words. The imaginary blankness of the page represents the other blanknesses I have already created in my life, these past few weeks. A friend just phoned to talk to me about a mutual friend who sadly is very ill. We talk about how she will manage, what we can do, how although we know her and she is our friend, there are thousands, millions of others, also struck down with severe illness. We must bear them in mind, but our friend is our friend and her experience concerns us directly. When that conversation is done, my friend on the phone says, ‘I’m sure we don’t have to talk about…how awful…the dreadful…Do we?’
‘No,’ I say, cutting off his hesitations. ‘We don’t have to. I can’t.’
‘Yes, the same with me. Well, you know…’
‘Yes, I know.’
That blankness. Once again the desire to look away has taken hold of me. The hole in our conversation is the equivalent of the imagined blankness of this page, and the swerving of my mind away from my responses, sad, angry, disbelieving, violent even, as I come across reports.
I no longer watch the news. The Channel 4 News with John Snow as an anchor has been my first place of detailed information about what is going on in the world. It is thorough and serious, it doesn’t have an agenda of the shorter, more popular news broadcasts on other channels, which cut the sadness or cruelty of the world news with upbeat human interest stories, or at least not so much. It does ask you to face what is going on, whatever it is, and it often enough isn’t good, often enough very bad. There are no other news programmes on television that have such a good daily, hour-long analysis of world events. After that, I read the Guardian, online these days, and then weekly and monthly news magazines, in print and on the screen, that fill in the political background of the news or present facets of situations that I haven’t thought of. I listen to some of the hourly bulletins on the radio as well as longer analysis programmes. Of course, there is Twitter, which has now become a kind of infinite curator of daily thought and writing about what is happening; tweets from various journalists or interested people linking to readings and videos on obvious and not so obvious topics, that I would never have found by myself. Keeping up.
I haven’t been my happiest self in the last few months, for no particular reason, at least to start with, just because I am made to have periods of not being my happiest self. But still, while my low spirits continued, I tried to watch the Channel 4 News regularly, to attempt to keep up with the world whose doings I’ve rather lost interest in, as my mood begins to circle its wagons and to look intently and pointlessly at interior reflections of myself mirrored in time and space, rather than out at the world. I know it’s important to know what’s going on. It’s important to witness, not to look away. But I really feel as if I’ve had some inner resolve taken from me, or that I’m missing some protective coating that enabled me to do that.
It has been like that since I saw the news several weeks ago that the three missing Israeli teenagers had been found dead. Of course, the news seeps in, and I find myself with all the emotions welling up. The shelling of schools, the claim that the opposition are using civilians as hostages, the reversal of the reality of who is weak and who is strong to make the aggressors victims and the victims aggressors. Of course, both are aggressors, but the two sides are radically unequal. The one side rich and with American and European weapons, the other deliberately impoverished with a population of 50% children. Not being young, I have nowhere to put the anger I feel, or any excuse for my disbelief. ‘How can they do that? How can they?’ I hear myself saying. And then stop because it’s a naive and foolish question. One that cannot be answered in any way that would be satisfactory to me. I would be on the street, marching with the thousands if I could. But although I have good reasons why I can’t, I also know that I am sure that all the marching by all the decent people in the world will not effect a real change. I know that change comes about in economic and diplomatic ways. If it comes about at all. Still, I am pleased that there is a presence on the street expressing their dismay at the absence of humanity.
I am living such a secluded life. There isn’t a single person I know, or who I correspond with who would take the other side, or disagree with me on more than minor points. No one who doesn’t believe that the motives are not really defence, but land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing. The death of the three students was known about by the government, but not the population, a month before the ‘retaliatory’ aggression. The population is, of course, being used, in the same way that the opposition is sidelined. There must be many who side with the stronger force. I do not put myself in the way of them, any more than I can tolerate seeing the news, except out of the corner of my eyes, or as links pointing to the horror of it on Twitter. I know I’m not alone in not wanting to look. The columnist Suzanne Moore, in the Guardian, wrote how she didn’t need to see those awful pictures of dead and wounded children to know that what was happening was wrong. Words are enough, even the word ‘civilian’ is enough. It isn’t only cowardice, it is also that we’ve seen it before, we don’t need it to show us other people’s pain, or to invade the privacy of those whose privacy has most terribly already been invaded by being killed. If I don’t look at the news or the pictures being put up everywhere on the Internet, it is only because I’ve paid attention to them for decades now. And all that time, I haven’t felt anything I might do could help. Marching, signing petitions, boycotting, of course, all those things, but finally all there is is helpless anger and shame that human beings behave in such a way.


20 thoughts on “August 2014

  1. There are many points you raise which most people would agree with,I know I do, but the real picture you need to see is how the world has changed. All the things you write about and all the things you see have been happening for a millennia but because of the internet and 24 hour news channels they get almost instant publication. Go back 100 years and see how it was weeks before news from some part of the world broke. Then it was only in a newspaper…which people below 30 hardly ever buy now. Much of what grabs public attention isn’t worthy of it and overall these stories get quickly forgotten. The biggest factor in everything today is greed and money and that’s what fuels most people unfortunately…to use a song title “Peace sells but who’s buying ? ”
    See all things sad as a way forward for change and stay chipper 🙂

  2. Pingback: In the Media: 9th November 2014 | The Writes of Woman

  3. Hello- what can I say … We all of us have ups and downs… we can find, everyday, some small reasons of being happy, even throughout difficult passages….Who wrote ” action is good ” ?
    And sometimes, it is necessary to protect ourselves from bad news. Il is not a selfish way to live, it is only ” esprit de conservation” ( in french ! ) so that we can recover to recover energy.
    And it is always possible to do something strong for somebody else or society.
    Thank your for your article.

  4. Reblogged this on CoffeeGrounded's Blog and commented:
    I found this on the WordPress Freshly Pressed site, while not an easy read, it does cause one to pause and think. And think, we should, about the possibilities for uniting and working toward peace in this world. It takes effort, grounded in hope and absent of fear, to build and bridge our Nations.

    (Please note that you will need to click into the blog to fully access the author’s opinion.)

    PLEASE do not resort to derogatory or inflammatory/flaming diatribes, as they will be deleted/reported through my monitoring of the CG site.

    Thank you,

  5. Pingback: August 2014 | CoffeeGrounded's Blog

  6. Luckily, there are still young and impatient people, who believe things can be changed by collectively going out into the streets and cry from tge tip of their lungs, that what is happening to their lives, their homes and their loved ones will not stand, and that they’d rather die than be ruled by tyrants. If this kind of outrage is necessary to make a difference, then so be it.

  7. I, too, am somewhat a solitary woman, watching ABC News [in the USA], every night. Generally, to see David Muir [ he is good-looking!] the anchor during the week. I have taken the ‘habit’ of praying during the news, especially if it’s tragic.

  8. No doubt I’m much older than you, but I share many of your feelings. I’m glad there are those who rise up and march, etc. but, like you, I also feel the “helpless anger” you describe so well. Perhaps it was coming of age in the ’60s with the Vietnam War and campus uprisings (here in the states), but for a long time I’ve felt there is so little we can do as individuals. I don’t want to believe this or feel this way, but I do. I hope the younger generation can find a way of bringing people together to avoid the endless wars and disputes all around the world. Meanwhile, I hope I don’t give up and at least keep following the important issues and who is out there tending to solutions. This was a good posting to read…lots to think about.

    • My feelings resonate with yours Mary and the writers. I experience the numbness and know it is short lived. I found the strategy of blogging to channel the ‘anger’ helpful but it also comes in waves. If we stop believing in the power of individuals to change we can destroy ourselves. Even if my blog has few followers and even less likes or comments I will persist in writing (if not blogging) The knowledge that a few people gain something from our conversations is often enough motivation that your feelings and thoughts are shared somewhere. The Suzuki phrase “Think global, act local” has rescued me from the imposed impotence of media politics and tge worlds madness. I love that the internet reaches across the globe. Thank-you blogger and Thank-you Mary! I am an Australian woman married to a Palestinian from Syria. This is both my solace and my pain. Yin Yang to you both. Maintain your rage, reflect on anger helplessness and pain and use its energy to connect……

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