According to Johann Hari in his stunning new book entitled Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, research shows that among the top words gaining most social media traction, we find:
destroy, obliterate, slam
I search for evidence and find it too quickly.
DESTROY: I scan the headlines on Ukraine and read all the ways humanity can decimate itself in the name of something else. How to make sense of the violence inflicted and the terrible pain? The children around me have answers they’ve been given by their parents and their teachers: they are enemies, he is a demon. I cringe, encourage them instead to ask (for this is what I’ve learnt to ask when violence confuses me):
Which interests might be benefitting from this barbarity? Take your time to think expansively (while the peace industry wrings its hands…).
OBLITERATE: But what if we choose not to see? Well, then (as we’ve also learnt), violence can only get closer. It starts to get uncomfortable. It starts to feel real, and possible, and Right Here. Suddenly so much human suffering inflicted by people and policies and everyday practices—In So Many Places—can no longer be denied. As too many survivors of injustice have been saying for too long: there is nothing new here.
We may deny, be we cannot unsee.
SLAM: In other news (and not so long ago), one of my students was arrested following their participation in a non-violent climate justice protest. This young person was urging their government towards more robust climate protection policies. What followed? Detention. Court appearance. Justice? My student now worries what a criminal record will do to their job prospects.
I am shamed by my complicity and my comfort. I bow to their courage.
We need to pay more attention. Our life depends on this.