The past few days, where there have been hints of the beginning of something much bigger; something disastrous, something crushing and something, for lack of a better word, scary. I have felt angry. Angry, confused, sad, lonely and… scared. I don’t like feeling scared just as I didn’t when I was a young lad. It has played out like an endless loop of fear, frustration and inevitable anger at the state of the world. Reading opinions filled with endless ignorance, wondering how on earth people could conclude that ostracising a group of over 1.6 billion individuals, simply because the minority of the followers of their religion would rather leave a path of death and destruction than make a valuable difference in the lives of those around them, be they young or old, could be a positive idea. Why point the finger at the whole group, no matter how many generalisations you can justify, how many stereotypes seem to ring true for at least a select few, when it is the individual who makes the choice. Of course, the individual can be compromised, threatened, coerced into decisions they may or may not agree with, but to steer them into the same ship and send them out to sea with no foreseeable way of defending their way of life, protecting the very values they hold dear and justify it as a move that we HAD to make? It’s quite frankly sadistic, inhumane and it borders on insanity.
I’ve been angry about opinions that others have voiced, or typed, despite the fact that I have so often defended our very right to raise our voice and not be intimidated by those who attempt to talk over us, silence us and scoff at our very assertions. I stand here, a young man, wanting a conversation before coming to the realisation that there are so many who just don’t want to talk to each other. The stubborn right wing, the latte sipping lefties, the bench sitters, the stuck-in-their-ways working class, the bullshitting bourgeoisie. We are stuck with labels. The very thing that has led us to classing the Islamic community as the most imminent threat to western society’s future. Why, oh why, do so many of us stand idly by as we go down the route that we feel fate has created for us when there are countless ways we can stall it?
I listened to NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers talk sensibly and provocatively about his distaste at the comments made by a nameless, idiotic football fan as they shared a minute’s silence in the wake of the Paris tragedy. Rodgers stated:
‘I think it’s important to do things like that, we’re a connected world, you know—six degrees of separation. I must admit, though, I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made a comment that I thought was really inappropriate during the moment of silence. It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today as a world.’
In the light of such a destructive and hate-filled act of terror in Paris, and the many conflicts ongoing in the Middle East, it was a comment that some may deride as just a passing remark from a self-indulgent football star, another element of our ongoing discourse that is beginning to fill me with disillusionment. We get a chance to embrace a beautifully simplistic and poignant comment coming from a man who plays in a football league not known for its wholehearted embrace of political commentary. That is what it is. A comment from a man who is speaking sense. A remarkable moment in time. However, as these moments come and go, we get hundreds of sideways, backward, up and down like a yo-yo comments from faceless social media commentators that are just as discouraging. The painful ignorance, the soul-destroying rhetoric and the same old mistakes being justified. I’m not expert on international relations, but I am a human being who is hurting and vulnerable. I know that we can’t just storm into the heartland of another country, another landscape, another culture in the hope of bearing the flag of freedom as another victory in maintaining world peace comes about. We live in a most complicated time, where our lives are being compromised by the very people we were brought up to trust in. We cannot rely on hate to take us anywhere but the very same spot we are in right now.
Even as I look at the #prayforparis hashtag, I am filled with the fear of the indoctrinated Christian teachings taking place of something that would be far more effective to the non-believers, the doubters and the tired. I understand the theory behind it, prayer is a place to collect one’s thoughts in the hope that a supernatural being will catch those very thoughts, but the connotations behind it are tainted. Religion may not be what sparked the attacks from a group of cowardly mercenaries and extremists, but it is something that has come to threaten free speech and transparency. Individuals and groups have tainted religion with clutter, bureaucracy and cover-ups, even if the very foundations of its teaching is so far from the reality of the situation. I won’t admonish the support of the Parisians in Facebook profile pictures; solidarity is nothing if not helpful in a circumstance where love is… love has to be the answer. The profile pictures are just a distraction; the real truth is that we are divided by something so much greater than social media. We are divided by prejudice, ignorance, fear and hysteria. We are divided by difference. In thoughts, ideals, decisions, movement, culture, history, circumstance, landscape and education. But at the heart of things, only monsters lack the ability to be vulnerable and fragile. Religion may be an answer some reach to, but it has failed us on so many levels that we must look to something far more widespread. Empathy and understanding. Without that, we are, quite frankly, fucked.
With my anger at the very distasteful material I have, in hindsight, mistakenly read on posts that raised my curiosity, I pulled myself back from calling out those who reel off opinions that strike me as completely inane, disheartening and sick. How can I defend the sanctity of free speech, no matter the time, no matter the place, no matter the subject content and not feel like a hypocrite when I am angered by the very thing that I defend? The cycle is vicious and repetitive. We do not have the time to educate all those who are set in their ways, we can only hope that a transparent and independent discussion will allow the swallowed thoughts of the repressed, the frustrated, the angry and the dismayed will come out and be listened to and debated. We are a long way away from that happening as the conglomerate of media stables fester in the clouds, whilst community and independent media generally relies on the whims of the current governing body to remain funded and ultimately relevant. We cannot compromise the very thing the fourth estate previously prided itself on, and expect our society to be open, free and clear. I know that the education system will be the very lifeblood of our world’s future, and to compromise that by stagnating the growth of a bubbling, excitable and enthusiastic group of upcoming, diverse and interesting editors, broadcasters, writers and reporters is a saddening thought. We have too much to lose. We have to listen, just as we speak.
I’ll be honest, I’m scared, I’m petrified, but the hope of a brighter and more honest tomorrow is something I will not give up on, even if it looks so terribly doubtful. So I’ll leave you with this. An alternative to the prayer for Paris, despite my own love for one of the world’s most astounding and beautiful cities. #listenyoumightlearnsomething – we are bigger than what they make us out to be.