I can’t do your sensationalist calls to action.
Don’t force pictures of starving, homeless animals on me. Or starving, homeless humans for that matter.
Don’t litter my social media accounts with gauche and reckless images of bruised women, skin black and blue, self-worth entirely erased.
Don’t drag me into impassioned yet futile debates (that go everywhere for the sake of controversy, but never actually end up anywhere) about how men are also just as likely to be the victims in those same images. Don’t engage me in any more discussion about what a sexist, insensitive, and innately unequal society we live in.
Don’t tell me stories of innocent children who unquestioningly put their trust and faith in the adults around them only to be tortured and abused by those same adults in the most despicable and inhuman ways.
Don’t show me the news, hour after hour of reporting on all the world’s evil, all the world’s terror, all the world’s overwhelming, soul-destroying agony.
Don’t pretend you’re doing me a favour by “humanising” a story of horror, anguish, and unimaginable grief. Plastering the face of a person who was blessed with the gift of a family yesterday, and is imagining exactly how many fleshy pieces a gun or a bomb blew that same family into today, is not heroic. It does not make it more human. Broadcasting an interview around the world of someone who is in shock, and immersed in paralysing grief and terror, on the very day the life they created for themselves has crumbled, is shameless. I do not need to witness that split apart face. I do not need to hear that faltering, desperate voice, cracking under the weight of all that unfathomable loss.
Don’t converse with me about our only home, the one we’re suffocating, ignoring, and plundering in equal measure. I don’t want to see miles of rubbish we paid for our convenience with where I should be seeing a blue ocean. I don’t want to see turtles with their delicate necks wrapped in plastic, slowly slashing their own throats for our ignorance and repulsiveness. Unwilling martyrs in our mercenary games. I don’t want to know about the astoundingly selfish, foolish, and disgusting things we do to this world that has only ever tried to nourish us.
Don’t remind me about the state of the world’s political systems. I don’t want to see grown adults bickering like five-year-olds, and regurgitating big words and empty promises in order to one-up each other in a public forum. I don’t need to be a spectator of that laughing stock. I don’t want to hear about women having their pussies grabbed by someone of supposed power and authority, a neanderthal so putrid and depraved I can’t even bring myself to classify him a pig because I don’t want to ruin an entire animal species for anyone, least of all myself. I don’t want to hear about clinically psychotic infants “leading” countries, their fingers hovering impulsively over buttons that are prophecies of war, nuclear or otherwise.
Don’t tell me. Don’t show me. Don’t share with me. I don’t want to know about it, I don’t want to hear it, and I don’t want to see it. We all know. We’ve seen it and heard about it all before. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I can’t take any more of it. My heart is heavy and weary enough. I weep for the state of this planet and everything in it.
When I saw the picture of the orangutan and her infant who had lost their home because forward-thinking humans can’t figure out how to consistently substitute palm oil, I wept. My heart broke for those helpless souls who, as well as emaciated and homeless, also looked like they had been beaten to within an inch of their lives.
When I saw people jumping out of windows of some of the highest stories of the twin towers to avoid a head-on collision with an aeroplane, I wept. I imagined the desperate, crushing position they were in, the helpless and empty realisation that they were going to die that day, they just had to decide which one of two ways they preferred to go. I imagined how that would feel. I imagined what they were thinking in those long seconds of freefall, the very last seconds they would ever have in this mysterious and fickle world, before they hit the ground.
When a post appeared on my Facebook page about a cat who had been tortured by teenaged monsters, I wept. I imagined the innate curiosity and trust that cat would have felt towards the teenagers, and how they used that trust to ensnare it. I imagined the frantic panic the cat would have felt as soon as it realised these were not friendly humans. I imagined the excruciating pain it would have felt when they did what they did.
I don’t need to go on.
It is heartbreaking.
This world is so full of the most vicious, unimaginable horror. I know all about it, and I don’t need, or want, to be reminded.
Some may argue that I’m selfish and ignorant. I accept that. To you, I may be. For me, I’m just trying to survive without having my heart cleaved in two every hour of every day by another act of abhorrence that I’m probably already keenly aware of without the incessant narrative. I’m also assuming that if you are one of those people who believes you’re raising awareness and educating people when you view, listen to, and share these stories of the world’s intolerable pain, you’re also actually doing something about these issues, too. When you share these things, I assume you’re asking people to act, not simply bringing trauma to other people’s doorsteps for the fun of it. So, what are you doing? Sharing is not action. Clicking a button on social media is not action. Loudly and aggressively stating your opinion on these things is not action. It’s not solving anything.
I may be selfish, but I don’t think action has to be loud. And I don’t think it has to look like you spread yourself so thin trying to fix everything that you end up doing nothing. None of the heinous, monstrous things that happen in this world can be cured by reaction. Screaming loudly enough might get you noticed, but it won’t solve any problems. If you scream loudly and also take proactive, organised, and meaningful action, I applaud you. But if all you’ve got is a strong set of lungs, a well-muscled index finger to click a share button, or the ability to regurgitate every atrocity witnessed on or in the news, take stock.
Awareness is not action. Education is not action. I hate to state the breath-takingly obvious, but action is action. Life is hard enough without the world’s evil being at the forefront of our lives. Our existence is heavy enough, with the ebbs and flows of our lives and the lives of the loved ones we try hard to support and encourage, without the necessity of exploring the worst of what the world has to offer, global awareness and knowledge so traumatising it keeps us awake at night. Sharing the load of our community is, of course, necessary, but forcing us to wear the entire world’s wounds like badges of honour is not.
My actions are quiet, and private. I encourage people when and where I can, in gentle and kind ways, because that is how persuasion is done best. I clean up my own back yard and I try to lead by example, hoping that if we all do our bit, it will accumulate and create change. Because I cannot take on the responsibility of fixing the entire world, I do what I can, at a volume I can maintain. I don’t need to know, in full and horrific detail, what is happening in the world in order to do my bit. I haven’t chosen a career that requires me to know full and horrific details, so I’ll leave that up to those who have. They may be doing more than me, if such a thing as comparison actually exists, but we’re all just doing the best we can. We’re all trying to measure our sense of guilt and sadness about the state of the world against the changes we’re making. We’re all just trying to find balance.
So, can we be kind to each other and not thrust images and soundbites of suffering on anyone? It is against our nature to witness these things, and I fear we are desensitising ourselves to such an extent that we obsessively seek out the next most torturous event we can find in order just to feel something. Instead of thrill-seeking, instead of sensationalism, consider telling the world what you’re doing, telling the world what action you’re taking that is making a difference. Tell us something positive instead of simply reminding us what we’re up against. Set us up for success and hopefulness, not helplessness and defeat. Let’s shine affirmative, productive action on the world and light it up, rather than snuffing all the candles out.