Written by Owen Stevens
Tomorrow there will be an election. The popular press drip with corrosive indignation and righteous shame. I try to find something from the supermarket that is not wrapped in single use plastic. I do, but mostly I don’t.
That evening I watch part of the Channel 4 ‘debate’ on climate change. The one thing that there is not, other than the Conservative Party and UKIP, who have both declined to attend, is a debate.
A landslide victory for the Tory Party. In that small bubble I occupy on facebook, everyone is in agreement. The election is a disaster. Despite or perhaps because of the election Brexit continues to hold the nations collective breath. In that holding there is a hardening. I see it in the faces of Christmas shoppers. But mostly I hear it in the conversations left unsaid.
“Have you heard the news, bloody Iranians. Bloody animals.”
I trying to sound measured in my response... “I wonder how we would feel if a foreign power came over here killed a top British General?’
“The thing about Trump is he does what he says. That’s why I like him.”
“Trump", I say, "is a very dangerous man”
To the passerby we might look like two dog walkers stood in conversation. But what we are stood in are the brittle shards of sentences uttered as pronouncements. The space between us barbed with wire, the trenches dug. As we enter 2020 these small and countless wars proliferate. Salted by a political popularism and increasingly bellicose popular press. What comes next is a deepening silence and with it a fragmentation which knows only one energetic response. War.
Facebook identifies itself as a social media platform a label that diverts us from what in fact it is – an advertising platform. A vanity mirror for some, an information centre for others. In all cases a space suited for pronouncements and in recent years the manipulation of elections. I am wary of those who deliver these pronouncements. In those short and airless sentences that arrive dead and breathless I hear the soundbite of the dictator, the pontificator, the manipulator.
And in my replies to this passerby, my neighbour, I realise that I am in these moments the very person I most distrust. Our world views are radically different. But in our pontifications we are siamese twins. It is never pleasant when we realise the other in us. And I think back on all those Facebook posts, most of which lacked the only saving grace that comes with pontification. Humour.
It is an irony hard to miss, that in this digitally connected world, we have robbed ourselves of those spaces where we can truly connect. Spaces where words can breath and in that breath give life to our differences. The well source of health from which all communities must draw if they are to grow to change to move to come together, has all but grown dry.
Our high dream for the big room is that it can be a space where words are given the freedom to dance, confront, rise and fall. And in the act of dancing bring us together. A space where the all in all of us is welcome.
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