Exhausting, isn’t it? The world, I mean. The upcoming election in America this November is giving me paranoid fever dreams that, somehow, some way, Trump will finagle a win out of the American election system. The fear of that happening, I think, will be the breaking point for America. It’ll either intensify the protesting into full-blown rioting, or the Americans will simply give up; their hopes broken, the bootlickers roaming across their remains like dinosaurs. A Trump with one successful election is bad enough. But how bad would the psychological wound be if he were to be willingly re-elected?
It’s no secret. This year is bringing out the worst in everyone. In America, the politicization of masks has taken the polarized debates of twitter into the real world. Racial division teeters on the verge of pitched civil war and Trump’s bogeymen lick their lips on the front lines, content in the knowledge that they can stomp some teeth in and get away with it. Here in the UK, our governments slack response to the virus has placed us firmly in a depression. The looming financial chaos will make us grateful for even the most menial and puerile of busywork, like it’s a life vest in a drowning pool. School kids across England are facing a pointless, nihilistic future where their hard work is ignored, their efforts mocked, and their best reframed as their worst. The algorithm that has downgraded most kids results may not be the most emotionally exciting story to have happened in this year of catastrophic failures, but it’s the one that seems to signify the pointlessness of continuing on in the face of such adverse conditions. Each of these issues are complex, overflowing: Each one deserving its own blog entirely but in the rolling 24 hour news feeds that social media has become, it’s easy to feel tremendously exhausted.
It’s impossible to know what to do about the current situation. The right seems driven, somehow, by some emotional fire. Some infernal anger that can’t be rationalized with and can’t be quelled. Almost as if hurtling towards an inevitable and brutal conclusion. It was just a few years ago that they preached the virtues of Logic and Reason. Back then, their bread and butter was painting up social justice to look like a screaming brat throwing its food at the wall. It’s shocking to see how hard that worm has turned. Now logic and reason is just a weaponized form of ignorance and cruelty. They’ve trained their zealots to route out kindness and mock it.
Now, the toddlers are readers of Breitbart with Republican Party memberships. They’re millionaire authors with retreats in the Hampton’s, owners of huge multi-billion dollar media corporations who spend their luxurious free time hand-wringing over their own liberty, yet refusing to protect the rights of anyone else. Entirely self-serving despair, when people are beaten and gassed in the streets, when the old and infirm are perishing to coronavirus, when children are beginning to experience a world with no real future to cherish over. No reason to be great. No incentive to try. Why be a doctor when you can just be ignored? Why educate yourself on injustices when you’re trained not to care?
And this, now, is a real worry of mine. Share a thought for the generation growing up in the midst of all this. Between the constant fear of school shootings, now they find themselves being shovelled back into the proverbial coal mines, lining school corridors wall-to-wall and being told not to report the unsafe conditions to the world. And even outside the classrooms, the things they value and cherish in life are constantly disregarded, mocked and attacked by the political classes and the boomer generation; The right made a mission out of demonizing social justice, and they’ve been so good at it that their brain-dead followers have simply learned to regard kindness and compassion with absolute revulsion and disgust. They don’t just disagree any more, they turn their noses up at it like a rotten meal. What happened here? How did it go from Logic and Reason to kids being beaten in the streets? If this generation survives the onslaught, it won’t be without some tremendously deep wounds.
It’s incredible to watch, really, even as an impartial observer from across the pond. I watch with tremendous fear how Libertarians and Republicans obliviously maintain they’re the bastions of rational free speech and liberty while turning the knife more and more every day – all the while failing to recognize their own gleeful sense of cruelty. How they could once claim to be the middle ground between exaggerated emotional despair and logical, reasoned democracy to now excusing the swathes of police violence killing democracy directly in front of them. And it isn’t hidden, either. Its no shocking secret. The cops are stamping on the first amendment, live and uncut, right in full view of the theatregoing audience. Perhaps Gil Scott Heron was right when he said the revolution will not be televised. Because it won’t be. The death of it, however, absolutely will. It’ll be beamed from the rooftops, projected onto skyscrapers. Livestreamed into your living room. You may never look away
And everyone tells me the same thing. They’re exhausted. I’m exhausted, too. They sigh at the news, they gasp at the horror. Negativity flows over us like rolling lava. When we’re as surrounded by bad news as we are it’s easy to want to pull the plug and tune out forever. I’ve felt that, too, at times, but quite frankly I don’t want to waste this anger. Anger is an energy. This bad news doesn’t have to defeat us. It was designed to, of course. It’s a constant, organized onslaught that’s constructed to make us feel futility and pointlessness. But we can use that anger and pour it into something positive. We cannot rely on our institutions now to do the right thing. Politicians, media outlets, corporations – they sold us out. For them, now, this is all a number savings exercise, and we just didn’t make the cut. But those of us still here, still sighing, still gasping, still exasperated at the pain being tattooed into the flesh of the world – we can use our anger to heal that wound.
I used to be fascinated by videos of hardcore bands from the early 80s – Grainy footage from dingy clubs, packed to the rafters with sweaty teenagers, wheeling around in each other’s space, their bodies contorted in the throng of the music, this haunted generation throwing their limbs with uncontrollable violent energy. I used to focus on facial expressions particularly. You could see every ounce of anger and pain on their faces, like they were conduits for their wayward innocence, flying out the window again, breaking through the clouds, and disintegrating into pieces like a dandelion. Gone forever. Only remembered because of the songs that moved them and the cameras that were there at the time of their most unguarded, their most intimate, their most frail. As powerless as they were in life, these photographs captured their most alive moments. The seconds and minutes they spent feeling like they were someone else. That generation relied on that. But what does this generation have?
I’m not sure what the answer is to all that.
It’s too late for us millennials. We were sent down the river in a funeral boat and it’s too far gone, now, to turn the ship around. But the kids in schools now stand on the cliff-face of change. They can either become the doomed generation, the soil for the boots of oppression to walk all over. Or maybe they’ll do something impossible. Perhaps it’s time we reminded ourselves of our worth as people. We aren’t numbers in a game. We aren’t pixels on a screen. We’re the unbroken dandelion: just one gust of wind away from being split apart by the invincible breeze. Blown to smithereens in a moment of pleasure and a moment of pain: That chaos between the petals bursting apart and scattering into the sea – a moments rush of activity, subsiding as quickly as it came, leaving a howling emptiness in its wake: the sound of nothing. More powerful than ideas.
It’s just us on this planet, with nowhere to go. Time to make our fleeting moment in history count, if not for us, but for the people coming next.
[Artwork by the incredible Dan Witz]