Was this actually happening? How could this be real? I looked up from my book. Everything in the world looked blurred, as though someone had put a film in front of a picture.
“I’m just saying I understand,” my cousin was saying. “He killed their relatives, so why shouldn’t they kill his?”
“But a firing squad!” my aunt protested. “”And in public!”
“I’m agreeing with you,” he said, annoyed. “I just understand why they’re doing it. Why shouldn’t they kill them? They want it to be shown.”
“Still,” said my aunt. “A firing squad! An eye for an eye does not work. It’s been proven time and time again.”
How could we really be having this discussion? How could, halfway across the world, people be being lined up and fired upon? Innocent people. It had nothing to do with them. I pictured a little girl, dragged out of bed and pummeled with bullets. Nothing personal, hon, but we’re going to kill you.
I’d already done reports about the rape capital of the world (the DRC) and organized groups to spread awareness about various issues, and I’d done a lot of weeping for humanity. But this extremely surreal moment, hitting me in the beginning of my own grieving process, was an underscore to an extremely debilitating impression: the world is filled with fucked-up people doing fucked-up things, fucking up more people…and repeat, and repeat, until we have created hell. This is hell. I went upstairs and lay on the floor, crying without moving for a very long time.
* * * * * * *
Something I keep recognizing is how it’s so much easier to be bad than to be good, so long as your morals and conscience have been sufficiently warped. It takes so much less energy to be dark than to have light, and not caring about people is an easier, less painful way to face the world and “be successful”. I think there’s a reason people become so self-absorbed when they’re unhappy: it numbs them to what’s outside and what’s happening more than any drug could. That snapshot is from when I was numbed by grief, and while I continue to grieve, I am now actively trying to knock myself into consciousness.
I’m starting a group at my school that’s dedicated to learning about…everything. Anything. I was inspired by reading (most of) the articles my friends and family members would post on Facebook. I love online communities (to an extent). They have their trolls, but they’re also filled with insightful people and so many perspectives. You just have to dig them out of the shallowness and all of a sudden you’re tapping into previously unrecognized resources, using your own brain abilities, making connections to so many things that are happening, both relevant and irrelevant to your life. I think it would be awesome if that could carry over into real life interactions. Conversations, where we start talking about one thing and end up in another subject, but everything is connected and at the end of the day, with the help of various articles and literary references, we’ve all learned things both academically and introspectively.
When I told my friend about what I wanted, she immediately got on board and started setting up a Facebook group and looking into the application to make it a legitimately recognized group on campus. After applying and inviting people, I guess we’re going to be co-presidents?
It’s weird. I think I needed her to show me that with work, ideas in my head can become realities. It’s not like our work is over, because we actually have barely begun. I’m already thinking about how meetings will be run, how we’ll pick and present topics, what sort of key questions will be needed on the side in case we need to stimulate conversation, where we’ll be meeting… it’s a lot. It might not even work. But people, many more people than I’d expected, are into it, and that’s great.
You know what else it’s easy to be? It’s so easy to be ignorant. A big part of numbing yourself is becoming willfully ignorant of what’s happening around you. This will be the opposite of that. This group, this intellectual curiosity club, will be a direct challenge to willful ignorance because it will seek to learn for the sake of learning, with no prompting other than individual motivation. If we can arm ourselves with knowledge; if we can mobilize with consciousness, we will be taking steps against darkness. While it’s true that it takes more effort to create light, it’s also true that a little light can make a powerful difference.