Our Brave New World, or Eli’s Coming…

With all that’s going on in Burma, Pakistan and Georgia, the last few months have not been pleasant ones in my mind.

The protests of monks in Burma really set things stirring for me. I was so enthralled with and inspired by their efforts, their quiet strength and resolve, that it was that much more painful when they were rounded up by the hundreds during a complete media and internet blackout, and trundled off somewhere — just gone, the people of their country helpless to learn more about the situation as they were more firmly blocked off from the world than they had been before the protests began. Make no mistake — I know the nature of the Myanmar government, and their behavior came as no surprise, but living in what is supposedly the most powerful country in the world and being unable to do a single thing besides helping aid organizations, contacting my elected representatives to press them to channel their resources, and joining movements and signing petitions left me feeling entirely useless.

Watching Pakistan, a supposed ally (I’ve never fully bought into that — they seem more of a convenient, nodding acquaintance that only sickly blossomed into something more when we decided to focus on terrorism in Afghanistan), being basically hobbled by an egomaniac’s inability to relinquish power, while our own government is only “disturbed” by the events, has made me, quite literally, sick to my stomach. It’s a low-grade sort of panicked nausea, the type that can’t be erased by any medication because it’s fueled by the foreboding knowledge that this sort of oppression is only going to spread, and quickly — and in places much closer than we’d like. Watching the country’s lawyers gather together, besuited, adamant, and frankly, looking more worried and scared than I’ve ever seen a professional group, and seeing them being arrested, one by one, is the visual that I’d always hoped would remain part of nightmares. Unfortunately, their arrests, numbering in the thousands now, are all too real.

Yesterday, watching coverage of the police forces gathering in Tbilisi and subsequently beating, teargassing and rubber bulleting protesters — just a further example of the screws tightening, of the fluidity of the rights being restricted to a point that even from a half a world away, I can feel the restriction acutely. Then, I got a hold of this video clip, showing the state police invading and shutting down one of the TV stations in Tbilisi, and while I know that it is not a clip from a movie, I find myself heartily wishing that it was:

What I’m trying to hold on to in all of this is the undiminishable beauty of people standing the hell up, speaking out, and doing everything within their power to stop these quick, creepily surgical attacks on those trying to live reasonable, free, safe lives. In the end, even if failure was all but guaranteed, these people used the most valuable things they had, their minds and bodies and voices, to try and stem the stampede. This is the truest, finest part of humanity, and it is also something that I continually worry is becoming extinct within us as a whole.

While I am thrilled to see that trait alive and well in protesters in these three countries, I think what’s truly at the heart of the growing nervous nausea within me is this: will we Americans still have the wherewithal to do the same, when the line is crossed here? There have already been so many incursions into our lives during the past several years, and they’ve passed with a large portion of the public either not knowing they were happening, or simply not caring (which to me, is the scariest aspect), that I truly fear we’ve been compromised by so many distractions and diluting forces that we’ll be looking somewhere else when the flood comes, and will be overwhelmed before we have the inclination or chance to wrest control from those who want to completely oppress us. Another question: why do we only seem to act when physical oppression looms, when the suppression of ideas, beliefs and freedoms is already at hand?

I apologize for the terribly serious post, but this is where I’m at right now. I can’t honestly write about rock shows or post results of my photographic wanderings when I’m in this mindset. Mind you, I’m going to more shows and shooting more frequently than ever — that will never stop. They are just a few of many things that I am lucky and privileged enough to be able to do. But those things I love, while part of my very lifeblood, are just a few of the parts of life that could disappear quickly if I don’t take care of the big picture first. As of late, I find myself treasuring people and places and things that could be gone so very quickly, if I don’t look sharp and pay even closer attention to the shifting winds.

Admit it, you can feel that something’s coming, something large and foreboding, that’s going to shuffle our world again. I don’t pretend to be nearly smart enough to know what that thing will be, but it’s there, on the horizon. Talking with people I admire and love, we all acknowledge, when pressed — whether tucked into the corner of a favorite bar having a bottle of wine, or in a conversation in the middle of a long meal — that a change is coming, and that it won’t be for the better. Why we’re not willing to talk about that loudly, openly and frequently I cannot say. Fear? Discussion means it’s real? Hopelessness? All of the above? Again, I have no answers. But, I do have a voice. And with it, I’m posting here today saying that I am strongly concerned, but certainly not afraid, that things are going to change for the worse, and soon. It’s not a valiant or grand act, I grant you, especially in the face of what the aforementioned protesters have done, but it’s at least another small something as I struggle not to fall victim to the Indifference Monster.

I want us to talk about that storm brewing, get it out into the open and remove it from the dark recesses of our minds that that allows the knowledge to masquerade itself as paralyzing fear, and start figure out ways of being ready for the change — to fight it, to evolve past anything or anyone that tries to take away our abilities, rights and physical freedom, and to rebuild the world into a place that’s livable, varied, and free.

This is only the beginning.


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