I want to avoid it all, the news, Brexit, May and Trump, social media too, especially Twitter, but I’m drawn to it, moth to the flame.
I am the moth that inhabits the old, paper lampshade, hanging like a globe, in my study. The moth has been there for weeks, flitting round and round, ceaselessly, whenever I switch the light on. I make up my mind to release it, to free it from this trap. Surely it must be exhausted by now.
Exhaustion is the enemy. Exhausted, overfed, helpless, we die away. We give up, we give in, we switch off. But to switch off is tantamount to appeasement. We have been warned, to stand idly by is to court greater danger:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing – Edmund Burke
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing – Albert Einstein
Every day some new horror emerges, some new offence against human decency and dignity and what good does retweeting it do and what point is there in doing anything that is not a proper protest, that is not demonstrably, directly political? I must speak up, write up. But how? And how can I justify writing anything unless it directly addresses the horrors of this, ‘post truth,’ world?
It is possible to argue that writing by its very nature is a political act. It stands as an expression of freedom; of thought and word, an attempt at the truth, the art of empathy and compassion. But how much can writing a novel set in eighteenth century London and East Anglia help an Iranian woman detained in an American airport?
I know (from a close friend) how terrifying it can be to be detained in a US airport, to endure hours of waiting alone, while her husband was left with no idea what was happening to her, to be refused the opportunity to contact him, to be forbidden to speak. How bad now, I ask?
Are things so bad that I should stop writing the novel or the stories I am engaged with? Should I make them over, re-write them? Should I allow myself to be stopped in my tracks by this giant truck, heading all our ways. The answer must be, no. To stop is to give in. To alter seems like an admission of failure and a poisoning of art, if not of soul. Surely the only thing to do is to endure while taking every opportunity that presents itself – to march, to protest, to petition, to sanction – to resist.
So,I will not be turning off the news, in fact I will be contributing financially to the free online press (in my case The Guardian) because we need them now like never before. I will not disappear from social media, and I will not stop writing my novel because then this climate of terror, of hate and intolerance, will have prevailed.
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