Yes, 2016 was a bad year, but this one is somehow worse. I, like many, am feeling the burn of compassion fatigue, but it behoves us to keep caring.
Those who survived 2016 recall it to be a very bad year. The fat lady released her anthology, crooning alongside great figures of genius, which served as that summer’s soundtrack, as we did the time warp, jaws aghast, watching the red hat wash over America, and the Kingdom that was no longer United. I, like many, was counting the days left with the pained expression and gleeful hope that 2017 would be different.
It has been different, insofar as it has been worse. I’d rather not take a snappy jaunt down the street of what’s happened, nor would I electroshock my synapses with the knowledge that it’s only June, but allow me to wearily tie my shoes in an apathetic, single bow. Last year almost seems nostalgic by comparison. We cared about a gorilla, but the furore surrounding it was still funny. We picked on Trump, because he couldn’t win. We wrote obits for the dead, because they were dead. However, there was a feeling of revelry to it, like the last party the alcoholic throws before checking into rehab. 2017 is the year of the Cold Turkey, and the walls are closing in.
Bombings, stabbings, the erosion of personal rights, the construction of right-facing hairpieces. Stop the world, I want to get off. The world is beset by violent, absurd acts, but I can’t revel in it, I’m too tired to dance.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Politics in 2016: The great PR push to the #exit
- TBS Wake: Remembering those we lost in 2016
- Current Affairs Wrap: Should old trauma be forgotten? Welcome back to 2016!
- Five fake news stories we believed in 2016
Yesterday, when trying to wring inspiration from Twitter, Pauline Hanson attacked autistic kids, the DNC capitulated to the GOP in Georgia (which – quick spoiler – means no impeachment), the proxy conflict in Syria took infantile steps closer to being a big boy war, the response to the ABC’s forum on men’s rights was extremely polarising…all coupled with the fact that this was on International Selfie Day; a day that should be about smiley, harmless hubris, not hiding in the dark, frowning with fingers in ears, attempting to avoid the grim, meat-hook certainties of life’s accidents. Perhaps the meta-virus we’re all suffering from is compassion fatigue, a condition that forces us not discuss the issue because the breadth of it is too wide, safeguarded in the knowledge that it’s forever mental flu season.
Put simply, the struggle is real, and always present.
Up to and including last week, I didn’t know that there was such a place as the “Grenfell Towers”. Now I do. Yet another verb that reintroduces injustice as part of the syllabus. I only caught the edge of electronic anguish being sent in the copy-paste template oft used in 2017, “thoughts and prayers to London”. I didn’t think “Oh no, not again.” I didn’t think at all. I closed that browser window and busied myself with something else. However, through the lifespan of the issue, I managed to catch up with the formative details, which in turn, made me feel worse. I sat this one out, and felt guilty because of it. I hid behind of the noble lie. “It didn’t happen to me.” When something happens, there’s always the innocent. We tell ourselves that it was bad, but it could have been worse, it could have been us. We, on foreign shores, are comparatively safe. The awful truth is these people were people, subject to the same parking issues and strata pedants as we. But that’s a horrible fact to continually have to address at the conclusion of every blood-soaked headline. “It could have been my apartment block”, “it could have been my Ariana Grande concert…” The only thing that saved us, was luck. The cosmos allows us to simultaneously care and dismiss their plight, and that in it itself is draining, compounded by the fact that as soon as we focus our attention, there’s something else braying at our ankles for it. It has one reaching for the blue pill and popping off to bed for the duration.
I suppose the lesson here is about admiring our resilience to the horrors of our existence. That our sustained, herculean compassion leads the collective reduction of the threat. If a collective of musicians rise against the purveyors of nailbomb-applied violence, then it reduces the horror of the original act, and therefore emboldens us to give more, emboldening others. After all, we’re the generation that instantly became old on 9/11. We worked through that, we can work through this. If we can’t stop Islamic State, or a fire in London, we can stop each other from giving ourselves to the abyss, even if it’s through articulated anguish, and waves of Internet empathy. It might seem hollow in the larger scheme of things, but this vanilla, westernised fight is important, as it’s something that motivates us to continue caring, a light of hope in a forever-blackening existence.
I suppose the mantra is this: I’m tired of the sight of blood this year, but I’ve seen far worse.
Do your worst, 2017.