This quite strange time in my life centred around feeling and numbness and the madness of humanity started about a week before I discovered my body was fucked. I was walking down Sydney Road on my lunch break and across the road and up the street I saw a body lying on the ground. My instant reaction was total fucking confusion. Why is there a body on the ground that people are walking past?” I started to cross the road. “Why is that body still lying there and why did another group of people just walk past? Why did that guy just step over the body’s leg as though it was a rock? What the fuck is going on? Am I dreaming? Is this some sort of test?
By the time I got there I’d seen more than ten people walk past. A woman was sitting on a bench staring at her phone about a metre away from the head of the unconscious body. I knelt down to see if it was breathing. “Erm. Are you calling an ambulance?” I asked the woman. “Oh. No. Sorry, I didn’t see…”
The body was male and black and the clothes it wore were scruffy. Despite seeing so many people walk past in about thirty seconds, as I knelt down beside the man and called an ambulance I became quickly surrounded. A whole bunch of people stood about a metre or two back from me watching. A woman who had been observing through a shop window walked out and gave me a bottle of water. “I’ve seen this guy like that before” she said, and smiled a weird smile. So had I. But is there a rule I don’t know about? One that says we’ll give a shit once but the second time, fuck it, you can just die you useless fuck. Is that the rule? That seems a bit mean.
The man was coming in and out of consciousness. He would sit up suddenly and yell and moan and then seem to be gone again. By the time the ambulance arrived he was more awake. The paramedics wanted to check his blood pressure. “Do whatever you want. It won’t help.” The man began to weep. “My whole family is dead. My Mother. My Father. My Brother. They are all dead.” The paramedic continued to check his blood pressure and did not say a word. I just sat there for a moment and felt what seemed like all the sadness that exists. Then the paramedics took him away and I felt like I’d done the wrong thing. I wished I’d just sat with him til he woke up.
If you call an ambulance for one unconscious body and it’s no use, who do you call when there’s loads of them? “Yep they’re breathing, just. Yep they can speak and move and recognise and avoid obstacles. But yeah they also seem to be totally fucking out of it. You look in their eyes and it’s like they’re dead. No? Not an emergency?”
Seems like a fucking emergency to me. Seeing those people step over that broken man broke me. I couldn’t think straight all day. When did we become so worthless?
I don’t think it’s that people don’t care, I think it’s that people are so scared they don’t have the capacity to. We are taught to mind our own business. And we are so busy that maybe stopping and calling an ambulance is just too annoying. We are taught subliminally that junkie-looking guys unconscious on the pavement deserve it. And if it happens more than once, well then, fuck you. But I think really we are just taught to be very afraid. Our bodies are contracted, we are closed off to the world and to the humanity of strangers. The effect of this fear is that we dehumanise others and in doing so we dehumanise ourselves.
We are all so fucking distracted by the never-ending sensory input that fills our minds and stops us from sensing things that actually matter. Stops us from feeling enough to care for an unconscious body – it’s like the peak of our empathy is to just not stand on him. Stops us from even seeing that man when he is right in front of us.
So, I call bullshit on everything. I call it on the pouting selfies and I call it on the clever one liners we’ve been reduced to making to describe this world through. I call it on the picture of your dinner and the picture of your cold beer at the airport. I call it on people’s need to update the world on every moment starting with TFW. I call it on the ready-made sentences that seem to permeate social media and basically mark the transition of us as humans to robots. I call it on the self-deprecating humblebragging updates. I call it on your boring hashtagged pictures of whiteboard workshopping of our existential crisis and I call it on anyone’s belief that start-ups or online platforms or digital currencies are going to save us. I call it on your fixed political beliefs and I call it on your apathy.
You know what I don’t call it on though? Your cute pictures of your kids and the funny things they say. It’s at least real. It comes from a place of wanting to express love and you seem to have funny kids. I don’t call bullshit on anything that’s funny.
People always say there are pros and cons to everything. That seems like a very over-simplified observation. Can we go a bit deeper? The cons of social media (a platform for hyper-but-pseudo-individualism, electronic consumption, the cortisone-releasing properties of a notification and its addictiveness; the complete destruction of nuance and complexity in our ability to talk about the world etc.) only seem to be cons if we don’t take notice of them and use the information to highlight the downfall of our mind-numbing system and our massive fucking desperate egos.
I know I sound so judgmental and if you like pouting or photographing your beer you probably don’t like me now. I am judgmental. I’ve reviewed the situation and I’ve judged it to be total bullshit.
If we were more critical of ourselves we would see that our unhealthy need to post so many photos of our lives; our half-arsed attempts to describe a feeling by describing a situation and tacking on an initialism, or our need to show the whole world we’re having a good time points to something we can learn from.
As it is though it seems like social media is ripping apart the fabric of society, making people so disconnected from the living beings around them and from their own selves that they turn a blind eye to a suffering, unconscious person and can’t figure out how to construct their own original sentences.
When I did a social media and culture class in anthropology they were so obsessed with remaining culturally relative that they basically tried to argue that the online world is just as meaningful as the offline world. If this is what we think we are truly fucked.
It seems ultimately toxic. Not inherently toxic though because it’s all about how its used. If its used unconsciously its going to be toxic. I think that rule applies to pretty much everything that exists. I think the cons of social media just show us starkly and with no grace at all what it is we want – to be connected and to be understood – and to actually fucking be having a good time. I think our obsession with our own faces reflects our deep and desperate desire to know ourselves. We really need to click on to the fact that these basic human needs cannot be satisfied in any other way than the way we satisfied them for our entire evolutionary history until we got the internet a couple of decades ago, or until we got late capitalism and thought we’d have a go at consuming ourselves into being.
Really, we just fucking accept everything. Not only do we accept the tools that technological innovation gives us as becoming indispensable parts of our lives, we accept the way we use them with virtually no criticism at all. Just because it’s normal to post selfies every day and tell people what you’re doing all the fucking time doesn’t mean it’s good or even okay. Even if you tack on a comment seeking to inspire and motivate the masses.
I also call bullshit, in case it didn’t come across in the last blog, on the whole fucking patriarchy. My brother said I should write more, which is what I’m doing. Unfortunately for him though because he inspires such reaction in me with his undying faith in Western medicine (despite having been sick for years) his thoughts will often form the basis of what I want to destroy. On the phone to him I said that Western science could never have diagnosed the cause of pain in my body because of the way it breaks the body down into pieces. He disagreed. “Do you know how an aeroplane works?” “Only very roughly”, I said. “Well, when you get on a plane you feel safe that it is going to be able to fly. That’s science”. Oh my God, fuck this healing shit, kill me now. He also acknowledged that he “sucks at emotions” but that obviously he does care about me. But not sucking at emotions is not just about being able to express that you care, it’s about being able to understand that when someone is crying on the phone because their body is collapsing and it feels really uncomfortable, you don’t have a go at them for not being able to calmly and rationally enter into a debate on scientific rationalism and accuse them of having no self awareness.
When I sent my blog to my Dad he assured me he would read it with an open mind, as though doing so would somehow be for my benefit. After reading it his only comment was “I’m not going to argue about the details with you. How could I when you use words like ‘cosmic’ and ‘electrical’?” My brother’s response to my body story was, as both he and I anticipated, quite annoying for me. From the part where I started describing bodily sensations he was totally lost. The word “energy” has no meaning to him when it comes to bodily experience, due, he said, to what I had referred to – the deficiencies of language. Except I never referred to the deficiencies of language.
Chi. Ki. rLung. Ruach Ha Kodesh. Ruh. Spirit. Pneuma. Ether. nilch’i. ni. mana. prana. ha. ka. Wakan. maban. Inua. Sila. Manetuwak. Numen.
They are all words for the energy that is felt inside us from cultures around the world and from different ages. I would argue that perhaps the deficiency sits not with language but elsewhere. For example inside the cultural abyss that we seem to inhabit. Or inside ourselves and our incapacity to feel and experience enough.
What do these scientific rationalists think all these people for thousands of years have been doing with these words? Just imagining that they feel energy inside them but they don’t because science?
My brother signed off his email, I’m sure lightheartedly and with affection (only for me to publicly use it as a way to denounce him – sorry), with “Your white rational male brother”. I got a few responses to what I wrote from men I know and none of the others seemed to feel the need to sign off as white, male and having respect for the scientific method. It’s almost as though they had previously been exposed, either through literature or their friends, to criticisms of the way in which patriarchal rule has shaped the whole world and the mindset of pretty much every person living in it. It’s almost like they can tell the difference between an attack on a way of thinking that has been formed over millennia by a disproportionately powerful group of people and an attack on them as individuals.
I thought I articulated myself quite well. I thought I made it clear that I see the problems of this world as sitting inside us – inside every single one of us. Not in our language, but in our failure to feel enough in our bodies to expand our language. Because as it is, it is shrinking and so are we.
Sorry if I’ve offended you. Sorry if I’ve called bullshit on all the things you do. Sorry. I know I could go on Facebook, feel nauseated by selfy grimaces matched with gratitude hashtags and I could just quietly slip away and not say anything. Not be mean. Or I could just never use it. But no, turns out I actually can’t do those things. It’s not me. I’d rather critique the world than avoid it. And it is good for lots of things. And yeah, it’s also addictive.
I just think perhaps that this digital, brain-centred, superficial world is utterly destroying us and turning us into a bunch of unfeeling cunts (I get how very imperfect that word is especially when critiquing the way patriarchal rule has shaped language, but that’s the reason it’s the best word), and that maybe we should do something about it before we completely forget that we are human.
I saw lots of people walk past that sad and hopeless man. I saw one person have to step over his leg. I saw another person sitting on her phone right next to him completely ignoring him. I saw about ten more people stop and stand and watch the moment it became a spectacle (and probably take a photo of the scene and post it on the internet). We know instinctively that this is a terrible state of affairs. How could people be so cruel? Well, I don’t mean to sound like a cunt myself but it seems the odds are that you would have been one of them.