I wake up most mornings with an uneasy feeling. It's not a very loud emotion. It lingers there on the edge of my mind. In the last few years, I have done a ton of work on getting to know my anxiety and what triggers it. I have changed my diet, worked with deep-rooted fears and managed my habits to ensure my body and mind don't throw me no random emotional curveballs without a sound reason. Yet that feeling is there, a melancholy of sorts. I work through it every morning with my exercise routine while cooking breakfast and in the long shower afterwards, yet it won't go away. In my introspection, I grew to believe that this feeling's source is my empathetic connection to the world at large.
The world is not doing too well these days. The violence is always so close to home that it is becoming routine. I remember vividly the first days of the war in Ukraine. My fear for my safety on the way out was quickly replaced with fear for friends and relatives who needed extraction, shelter and support. The first year was painful and uncomfortable, with new sources of anxiety coming with every portion of the news. Yet there was a shift sometime in the winter. My friend opened a tea room in Kyiv in February, and it was instantly packed, with people queuing up in the street to drink some new-age tea harvested by virgins in the jungle of Cambodia. K41 celebrated its birthday with three day-raves, and I felt a pang of FOMO from Bali. All while missiles and drones were striking Kyiv almost every night. People got used to it and decided to live on.
These last few days, I am thrown back to those early days of war, with Israel being attacked by HAMAS. Again, friends and dear ones are scared senseless, trying to find ways to escape the fighting. Flights are few, and fear is pushing new highs daily with speculation of a more substantial invasion on the horizon. Those who've just built their new lives after escaping Ukraine must run again. Those who ran from Russia are calling and saying, "Damn, I finally understand what you guys had felt in Kyiv on February 24th. It fucking sucks." The old-school Israelis are looking down on the panicking immigrants with contempt. The violence had been expected for them as long as they remember themselves.
Contempt is another strong feeling making a comeback today. Ukrainians and Russians alike feel contempt for their compatriots avoiding the draft. However, in the case of Russians who are avoiding this horrible war, they also feel contempt for those who are not. Ukrainians who left mostly feel guilt and a desire to go back home. Yet when they return, they feel very different from those who never left. Their skin has not grown as thick, and the daily violence still bothers them deeply. It upsets the ones who stayed as much, but they learned not to give power to that feeling, to keep it out of their mind.
The world is split today in four ways.
1. Some welcome the violence, yet they are not experiencing it in their daily lives. Bloodthirsty couch warriors are the scariest kind, ignorant and self-righteous, full of hate and fear.
2. Some embrace the violence they are facing and adapt to it. Perhaps they are the wisest ones, already living in the inescapable future anti-utopia ahead of us all.
3. Some run from violence and try to find safety. It is beginning to dawn on these nomadic herbivores that the world is on fire today, and there is no place as safe as it was yesterday.
4. Finally, some are entirely ignorant of the change. They carry on about their lives, not sensing the shift. Tweeting daily their ignorance and condescension and calls for world peace.
So, experiential contact with violence today seems to add value to the individual by removing the veil of ignorance. I flew into Kyiv on the 20th of February from London against all protests by my family and friends. I always felt grateful to live through the invasion. To experience the animal fear that shook me to the core when missiles started landing in my home town. To run for my life, knowing I can be seen as an enemy by both sides of the conflict. To get help from strangers and friends alike when it was most needed. That experience taught me something valuable that prevents me from hiding from the uncomfortable truths today.
Ideology is by far the deadliest weapon of mass destruction. We live through an ideological dark renaissance of racism, bigotry, hatred and contempt wrapped into sexy new packages. On one side, we have the world of freedom, which is torn apart by those who work relentlessly to pervert the idea of freedom into a ludicrous competition of deviant behaviours. On the other hand, the world of traditional values declares war on everything it fears in the name of tradition when the only thing it truly fears is the freedom of its people. Public discourse is diminished to hate speech and coordinated attacks against one another. Understanding, empathy and love for the enemy are considered weaknesses and deeply detested by both sides.
These new ideologies are broken down into many variations, tailored for all the different audiences. Each has its priests and saints. Each has its core tenets and objects of hate. The priesthood follows the age-long tradition of not believing in what they preach. It's just a job for them, a way to get the power they crave. The followers believe mainly because they are too lazy to think for themselves. It is easier to compartmentalise the world as suggested by the most vocal ones and pick and choose the targeted beliefs instead of developing a personal worldview. Ignorance is the true core of today's information economy. Who would have guessed?
That is the natural source of my melancholy. It feels that all is lost, and we are on a path to certain doom. However, I refuse to accept it. As long as I have agency over my actions, it is in my power to be driven by every feeling. So I come daily to my cursor and try to make sense of the world, dissect it, take apart the predominant feelings and motivations, and find the root causes of violence and hate. I try very hard to form my own opinions and educate myself on everything that bothers me, take a deeper look and try to get to the source.
One day, I will find an inflexion point where little force can be applied to discourage ignorance and make it globally unsexy. Perhaps not. Either way, the process itself is my reward, as there is no better way of dealing with melancholy than giving in and converting that energy into action, however fruitless it may seem.
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