Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Under my skin

As my life eases into its post-holiday rhythms, the tragic loss of so much life lingers in an uncomfortable way. And how sad, I think, that we also lost Susan Sontag, who would have dared ask us what it actually means to care about the suffering of faraway others.

After all I read today, it is Rob's words that stay under my skin and refuse to ease my discomfort:

"But as the disaster unfolds as human and social suffering, its treatment as a media spectacle transforms tragedy into a form of action-adventure and tales of close calls and miraculous escapes. A planetary event becomes a privatised horror flick on the TV news; carnivalesque diversion from post-Christmas shopping. The media story is too much about the reversal of the hospitality of leisure spaces by humanitarian aid. It risks becoming the story of ourselves, our 'heroism', when the truth lies on the other side of the hedonistic mirror, in the different situations, statuses and fates which are not shared at all equally."

Added to this knowledge is the sickening understanding that before and since the tsunami, tragedies of even greater magnitude have gone ignored.

In the LA Times obituary, Sontag is quoted as saying "the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying." And I suspect that all the information in the world will not create that kind of intelligence.

When, for the first time in two weeks, I checked my blog feeds this afternoon I was surprised by the amount of repetition, but far more troubling to me was the lack of reflection. Part of me thinks how wonderful it is to be made aware of so many ideas and activities, and yet another part of me demands to know why I should care. Please believe me when I say I am not trying to be flippant. In fact, it is in these long lists of articles and projects and people and ideas without any sort of contextualising commentary that I fear we risk becoming nonchalant and careless in our accounts. After all, I am hardly the first to equate silence with complicity, and without the kind of critical intelligence Sontag believed in, I'm afraid all I'm left with is quantity rather than quality of information.

Like Chris, I don't like resolutions - but I do want more understanding than information, more personal voices than silent links. I want to post less often and with greater attention to understanding. I want to read more slowly and carefully, ask more questions and attempt more answers. I want to find meaning in details and love in shared moments.

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