Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Stretched beyond the Empathic Limit

April 2, 2011

They want me to care, but I don’t, I can’t, I won’t, I don’t see why I should.

Gadaffi, Libya, rebel uprisings, arms, bombs, artillery, fighter jets, cruise missiles, deaths in the Middle East. Who are these people to me? I know why they care (the dictator wants to hold onto power, the people want to oust him and be able to afford food, and western leaders want to maintain access to oil and arms markets by ushering in and tutoring the new regime); or at least why they pretend to care. I just don’t. Sue me.

Japan, tsunamis, Fukushima, radiation, nuclear power prospects, ‘environmentalists’ doing the industry’s PR for them, energy politics. Where’s the relevance to my life? Where can I fruitfully, meaningfully intervene? This is not ‘news’ – these are pixels on a screen! We only know about these places because our pirate ancestors were looking for new resources to plunder, and the same is true today: interest in a story correlates strongly to the depth of economic investment in related areas.

Clearly I’m in need of a Noble Cause – the more world-beating (and impossible) the better! Maybe I should carry on with saving the forests – they payed attention to my voice when I raised it before after all. Then why did I feel so utterly wearied when I heard my own words repeated back to me in news reports and government statements? Why did my ‘victory’ taste so bitter? Or maybe I should hop on the train of superficial activist energy and rescue the NHS from the latest round of bureaucratic cannibalism. But wait a minute – why all this energy spent on preserving government bodies? I haven’t been to a hospital in years, and I’d be perfectly happy in a future without them (if the medical know-how they enclosed were to return to uncomplicated everyday use among the populace). Ditto the Forestry Commission. Not to go all ‘Big Society’ on you, but I’d rather see decision-making devolved to the lowest levels with local people in charge of the local resources which they use.

Climate Change, Peak Oil, Austerity, Revolution, Overpopulation, Species Loss, – what do all these big words mean to me? My senses have been killed! I live in a self-controlled, self-mediated bubble named ‘security’. Maybe I remember that Springs used to be rainier (but then, haven’t Winters gotten colder?) Maybe I notice that petrol and food are getting more expensive (but it’s a free market, right?). Maybe I see the kids getting angrier, fewer bees about, more people desperately ‘seeking employment’, the arts getting more pointless and irrelevant, and – slowly as ever – the dim recognition of life-possibilities gradually choking down to the most meagre levels. Beyond that, I’m blind and stupid. You have to level with me; you will have to work with what I’ve got.

All the talk is about murder, starvation, injustice, energy, pollution, money, drugs, crime, immigration. Meanwhile, I know dozens of people who will work themselves to death, but I never say anything to them. An elderly neighbour talks to me about her excruciating leg pain, all the pills she takes and the times she has fallen because it got too much. In her house, on her own. And I itch to escape from her confiding and forget all about what she has told me.

I have exceeded my capacity to care.