There seems to be no downtime from tragedy and events now. As our news cycle goes to sleep on one side of the world, another erupts with a vengeance on the other side. Perhaps in years to come, the true impact of the events of the past two years on our mental health will come to be analysed and quantified.
Paris was shocking until Brussels was until Nice was until London was until Barcelona. And this coming after a year of coverage of the horrors in Syria and people drowning and dying on the shores of Europe. Because of this, it is easy to become weary of human suffering, to dismiss it because it has become so commonplace in our space. In the past, it was horrifyingly easy to dismiss suffering if it was on the African continent. As long as it stayed over there, and wasn’t over here, it was not easy for us to empathise fully with the life-altering awfulness of events in those regions.
Now, everything is coming home.
And because of all of this, the discourse of modern suffering and vengeance is seeping down from the top and into our lexicon. Now, we are but a whisper away from repeating the terms used by those who can address the world in a moment, who can get their message of awfulness across the continents in seconds. For most of us, it is easy to dismiss this for what it is. But for many, it just fits in with their agenda, it is adding to the vocabulary of hate. And so it has become easy to succumb to all of this, to give into the belief that what has been fought for for so long will not be easily forsaken because of the emergence of a new mouthpiece.
I’ve often found parallels in life when out running. Heading out onto the open road, and dragging your body along should tire the body irretrievably. It makes sense that it should. Yet it does the opposite. It creates energy where there was lethargy. It makes one aware of the possibilities rather than the limitations.
When we run up those hills our bodies should become weaker, but instead, they become stronger. Muscles are created because of resistance. And in a way, most of our opinions should be too. They should get stronger when they face resistance; they should get stronger when they are voiced in a time when it is perhaps easier just to stay quiet.
It is when we face against something that our understanding of it becames all the more intense. When something dear to us is threatened in some way, that is the time to stand up for it. If they go low, we go high, to quote Michelle Obama.
Over the past eight or 10 months, most of the values that we hold dear have been threatened becaused of entrenched political positions, of emboldened deluded individuals thinking that because a tide has carried them one way that it cannot turn again the other.
Those human rights and hard earned advances for mankind in science, in dignity, in discrimination, in respect, that were earned inch by inch over the past century have been put up for negotiation. Longstanding international agreements jeopardised and questioned.
Primarily, it is the discourse around all of this that should concern us. When a white supremacist smashes his car into protestors in Charlottesville, the thinking that drove that person to do that has been awakened in another in some other part of the world. The world is such a small place now. All of our minds are open to being led now. It doesn’t take much to stimulate someone who knows no better.
All of these things are relevant to us here in Galway. We stand as a city against racism, against discrimination, for human rights. But we have to be vigilant. Each time a politician opens his mouth and spews forth more bile, rather than it being a declaration to which we should succumb, it is something to which we should react. And the same for all those who express opinions such as this.
It has been heartening over the past few weeks to see vast international corporations taken to task if they have in anyway been linked to hate, whether they are conglomerates, or media or merely political.
When you are running, just because a hill appears in your path does not mean you should avoid it. You should meet it face on, trust in your own judgment, be aware of what is right and wrong and embolden yourself in the conquering of it..
Many battles have been won to ensure these rights and entitlements — it is up to us all now in our own way to speak out against anything we deem to be an injustice.
Now, more than ever.