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“What’s on your mind?”

June 15, 2016

“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us but silence.” Audrey Lorde

Tragedy has hit my community. Mine because I am queer and have experienced hate. But not mine because the experience of being Latino and poor in the USA is so far from my privilege that to comment or identify feels completely mad.

Untangling the facts of the massacre from my outrage at the media response and from the imperative to tell Facebook ‘what’s on my mind’… It feels claustrophobic with no room to experience the anguish or process the incomprehension.

“I really wish I could think of something to say that was hopeful, that was useful, that was not simply a net of rats blocking the force of the sun.” Sean Bonney

I don’t mean to condemn the posting of online responses to human tragedy, but there is something grotesque in the volume of them combined and scroll-thru-able. Facebook: the keeper of our curated self and today (or yesterday) a platform for a community’s grief.

As though the act of posting sorrow to Facebook turns a statement from grief or memorial or gut reaction into a self-conscious performance of those things. Like this blog – it’s words put together following the event to let the world know that we have an opinion about this thing: to join the debate, to prove to ourselves by the collection of ‘likes’ that our feelings are a valuable part of our self.

I have read the news and almost in the same instant I have read the news filtered through the online reactions of my peers. With each piece of information discovered, the process of mass reaction goes on repeat. The net of reactions reaches wider and the noise of mourning sounds blunt and thoughtless.

Can responding to human tragedy, to a particular oppressed group, to being oppressed ourselves and to needing to recognise our role as oppressors be adequately contained in a status update?

We don’t give ourselves a moment to be offline, free from self scrutiny, to be humans that feel and ache.

I long for solidarity marches where instagram is banned, where we must be with each other without the lens of social media, where we can stand side by side in solidarity, feel our grief free from telling our networks about it, where we can remember the dead and just feel what it is to mourn.

Because it isn’t just real contact, communication and debate that is being corroded by our constantly updating feed. If we don’t give ourselves time to process the questions then the answers we come to will always be inadequate.

Responding to fear, isolation and hatred can’t be done in the echo chamber of our online worlds. For that we need to step beyond the worlds we know and the communities we click like to. We will need to resist systems of oppression that benefit when we consume and are consumed by a world in two dimensions. We will need to meet people who scare us and get real with them.

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