An Easy Discovery

It wasn’t caged
it did not hide
nor deny it’s rightful place

It wasn’t new
it wasn’t found
it came through no new grace

It wasn’t yours to gift to me
nor any bodies else’s

But still I found it
though never hoped
to discover long lost faces

In memories I saw it pass
in fleeting, nervous moves
in lonely hopes
and doubtful moods
I clung to unseen truths

And only now
in silence’s maw
do I finally see
that one true missing aspect
was all that was meant to be

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Charlotesville & Violence

The reaction to events in Charlottesville has been a major part of the news and social media cycle recently. Rightly so, although it’s worth remembering that banner head events like this are just the peaks of what can and does happen on a daily basis throughout the US and here in the UK too. It’s size makes it more prominent, but perhaps not massively more important than the daily acts of intolerance and hatred that some people set out to encourage and take part in.

One of the strands of reaction, one which I find perhaps more confusing than any, is the condemnation of those people who set out to physically resist the Fascist presence on the streets. It’s not the loudest line, fortunately, but it does have enough prominence to be a disturbing one so I figured I’d throw in my 2p’s worth of opinion on it.

I don’t understand how, or why, people try to analyse physical action as a political or philosophical act, I’m not sure everyone involved in it does at any rate. Even if you believe that some Fash or fellow travellers can be talked to and brought back from where they are (and I do) that’s a moot point when it comes to actual, street level action. The only question there is what effect their presence has on a community and what measures are needed to limit it, I don’t understand how anyone with any experience of the world can honestly try to break that down into a comfortable political talking point to be chewed over with sorry recriminations from a safe distance. When these people go out to march, or more usually just act up in their day to day lives, they’re not setting out to convert people, or convince people of their righteousness, they’re trying to assert their power, they do it solely to make themselves feel bigger and to intimidate and threaten the people around them. Saying no violence in return as a personal position might feel morally right to an individual, it might even be morally right to an individual but it’s still a myopic position and a selfish one to impose on other people.

Try to impose the same thinking on others, imagine it’s your family, your friends or your kids who are walking around that area when the Fash are out. Imagine it’s them being told they deserve to die, that they’re less than human, that they should be lynched or thrown in gas chambers. Imagine that it’s them being physically attacked for the colour of their skin, or their religion or for believing that Fash thinking is wrong. And that’ll all happen even without them being involved in any counter protest, it’ll happen just because they exist. It happens every day in fact. To condemn people who take physical action in return, or who defend those who are attacked in that way is, tbh, a fucking disgusted moral imposition to make on anyone especially if you’re taking your stand from a safe distance where you’re fairly sure you won’t face the same.

I’ve posted a statement from a former member of the clergy above (click to enlarge). To me that’s a truly decent position for any pacifist to take if they hold their beliefs honestly. You don’t have to fetishise violence or think it’s good or get a buzz off of it. You just have to accept that your moral stand (if that’s really what it is) isn’t viable or reasonable for everyone and perhaps even acknowledge that, if it were, it wouldn’t just be the philosophically peaceful counter-protestors who’d get a beating for it. If Fash felt they could act with impunity on the streets, whenever and wherever they are, it’d be whole communities who’d have to live with it. Day in and day out.

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Suicide and Cowardice

I’ve never listened to Linkin Park, or Korn for that matter, and long and varied as I hope my life’ll be I hold out zero desire to experience either band in the course of it. So when I touch on Chester Bennington’s suicide and the reaction to it here I’m not coming to it from any particular fan-ish or grieving angle, more a personal one given my own experiences with the suicidal and the depressed.

Chester’s death didn’t really come on to my radar to be honest. Someone I’d never heard of killed himself, sad but no more interesting or relevant to me than the deaths of anyone else whose time comes before it perhaps should. What has popped up on social media within my usual blank faced staring at the screen though is the angry reaction from Korn’s Brian Welch.

Honestly, Chester’s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sempethetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!! [sic]

There’s been a strong response to the above, even though he’s now apparently deleted it from Facebook and while many others have already touched on the feelings I share towards it I figure it does no harm to put it all in my own words. Some lazy, cheap headlines reported the statement as an outright attack on the man rather than one couched in a more personal disappointment from someone whose own experiences, apparently, have some comparison to Bennington’s. Some of the initial outrage was mediated when people bothered to look beyond the misleading hackery that they first saw. Even if the statement had been nothing more than third rate editors decided to label it as though the aggressive response wasn’t, in my opinion, necessarily fair.

Suicide, and to a degree the depression that can precede it, can be taken in two ways and the closer you are to the individual in question the truer that becomes. On the one hand the factual realities of mental illness are, as any decent person can realise, tragic ones. People who drift so far into their problems/condition really shouldn’t be judged or attacked for the manifestations of them, any more than a victim of more clearly physical disorders should. On the other hand though mental health problems, while they may be illnesses, aren’t as easily quarantined into disdain as physical ailments. It’s easy to section off a physical disease from the person afflicted, it’s easy to hate what the former does while never for a second losing love for the latter. But with mental health the illness can become so insidiously wired into the behaviour of the individual that it’s hard, or even near impossible, to be objective about it.

From my own personal experience I’ve known individuals who’ve committed suicide and been driven to the point of attempting or openly considering it. And my reaction, like Brian Welch’s, wasn’t exactly as detached and understanding as some of those attacking him might have liked it to be. In fact at times it’s been downright bitter and disdainful and even if I didn’t term their actions as ‘cowardly’ I can’t deny that my views weren’t much more friendly or considerate. I was angry at them, or more accurately at my inability to help them, or the world for leading them to a place where the hope I wanted for them became such an impossibility in their eyes. I was even disgusted by them at times, although never openly, because I wanted their problems to become a matter of choice. Helpless in the face of them I wanted it to be a simple matter of personal strength to escape that trap they’d fallen into. Much as I told myself that it was the manifestations of an illness and not the nature of a person I was dealing with that was a hard line to maintain in day to day life, where that truth wasn’t just considered as a ‘right’ thing but was tested as a daily requirement.

Now, with a measure of hindsight and more comfortably separated from the more visceral immediacy of things I can certainly say that my reactions could have and should have been better but at the time, as I experienced the loss, or was around the destructive force of people being driven into that extreme darkness, I reacted as a human being being effected by someone close to them. I reacted, I think, naturally for the circumstances. Which isn’t to say I didn’t do what I felt to be best to help them but it is to say that the understanding, benign feelings I would have liked to have felt towards them and within myself were near impossible to maintain.

And that’s an important thing to remember when it comes to comments like Brian Welch’s. His insensitivity, his cruelty even, weren’t the sum total of his broader reaction to mental health, they were a reaction to a death which to everyone who isn’t in a place where suicide becomes a necessity will always seem avoidable. They were a reaction to the loss of a friend who, as everyone whose been around similar situations will know, will always leave him wondering whether there was some way to stop it from happening. That they seem so personal, so vitriolic is a testament to the nature of the illness rather than the failings of the man himself. As I said, depression is insidious, consuming and winds its way into every aspect of who a person is. To hate it is, in part, to always risk the act of hating it’s victim too. And as abhorrent as that may seem from a distance, as much as we may all want to be the sound voice of reason which can judge the condition as wholly separate from the person, the closer you are the harder that gets to do.

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Art of Flames

He’d gotten as far as piling them up and fetching the matches before the will to set them alight sloped away from him, an exhilarating thought drained in an instant of all value. It would be childish, cowardly even to condemn the sheets to the flames, an act of bitterness not liberation. It would have been an act though, it would have been something which, sat at the scene of his placidity, was all he’d really desired.

The sketches were a life’s work, his life’s work. A personality defined in ink and paint and charcoal, a rigid skeleton for his life to hang off of. That’s what they had been anyway, now they were just a mockery, the jibing graffiti of a dead self, there only to remind him of how far he’d sunk over the years from being that soul wallpapered by it’s own creations to the desolate concrete bunker he’d made of himself now.

When and why the change had come he didn’t know, certainly there’d been no conscious breaking point between the old and the new forms of self he’d lived through. He’d never accepted defeat or abandoned his art, instead he’d just moved through it, broken through to the other side of the miasma of creativity that he’d once believed immense enough to fill the universe, to find himself stood in absolute nothingness. No more ideas, no more creations, no more art, no more anything, just longing gazes behind him as if the past might beckon him back and all would be as it was again.

That was the mood in which, in a frenzy, he’d hurled the stacks of forgotten ideas and projects, finished or still underway, into a heap and resolved himself to condemn all that he’d lost to flames. If it was gone it could be forgotten perhaps, or at the very least the mocking derision of what he had done would be stricken from his sight. The memories and loss might have lingered anyway but for a moment it had seemed like it might help.

He threw the matches to the other side of the room and slumped down. Childish, cowardly. What right had he to strike at that better man who’d created these things? How could he imagine that there was any gain to be made from hacking away at the icon he’d made of his own past? Temper tantrums didn’t make more of the person having them, they simply elevated their target by virtue of comparison. A knowledge that sapped all will from him, even knowing he’d seen the truth did nothing to offer comfort. The pictures had to stay, which meant they had to continue judging him, sneering at the empty vessel out of which all value had been drained.

With the fury of the moment passed he remembered the one option that remained to him, the one that presented no passion or intent but simply was. If they wouldn’t go, he would. After all, he’d already seen the passing of the only part of himself worth living for.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

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Author Dylan Orchard's Site/Notebook

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