Saturday, November 14, 2015

Reactions

The world is feeling particularly unsafe this week. I haven't yet had the chance to process in writing everything that's been going on, so this is going to be unorganized and I'm going to say ignorant things and perhaps contradict myself. Fair warning.

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Where to begin?

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Fruhling in Paris - Rammstein

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When people ask how week eight is/was going, I say, "Well, I had three midterms this week." And they groan in sympathy, and say "poor you," and commiserate, because we are at school and having three midterms in one week, even if one is just a take-home, is a struggle to which others can relate.

I can hardly imagine what it is like elsewhere. Three midterms? What about not feeling safe enough to go to class because other students have said they will shoot people of your race? What about shooters, and hostages in a concert hall, and a funeral bomb that barely received any coverage or compassion from the world? What about refugees who are being blamed for crimes committed by the very people who drove them from their homes?

Some of my friends have posted extensively on Facebook about the tragedies all around the world and the country, and some that have emerged in the past day have been meta-commentary about how the coverage of the Paris attacks shows the media's prioritization of white tragedy. I hadn't even heard about the bombings in Baghdad and Beirut until I heard them mentioned in connection with the Paris attacks.

A few weeks ago the sustainability community was focusing a lot on the fires in Indonesia. I was in Indonesia this summer, I know people who might have been affected, and yet I had heard nothing before and have heard nothing since about the matter, and these destructive fires have been going on for years.

Honestly--it's Paris that has me the most shaken up. Because I've grown up in America and am conditioned to feel the hurts of Europe more than the hurts of the Middle East, and I haven't unlearned that, and no matter which way you slice it, is it tragic and it is frightening. Over 100 people died while doing ordinary things in a set of organized, planned, coordinated attacks, and it has been described as the worst violence in France since WWII, and I'm terrified.

I have friends studying in Paris right now. I have friends who were going to attend COP21 in Paris at the end of the month. I'm going to be in Berlin, another major European capital, in the spring.

The attacks happened yesterday. Who knows yet how things will change?

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I am scared for Muslims in Europe right now. As John Metta said in I, Racist, white people are seen as individuals but minorities are seen as a group, as a collective, and only a tiny proportion of Muslims are terrorists but fear, suspicion, and retaliation are going to fall upon a whole lot more.

(Imagine if the same reaction occurred whenever another white murderer shot up a school.)

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The questions I want to spend my life answering are: how can people achieve a higher quality of life while also reining in human impact on the environment to sustainable levels? How can renewable energy and efficiency and other technologies that support this goal be brought up to scale?

The questions I have been thinking about most often this quarter are: How can I better contribute to solidarity with other people of color and other people in the LGBT+ community? How can I be a better ally and a better friend?

But not all problems are structural and not all problems are technical and not all questions can be answered by being a better person. There are not only inadequate allies, but also enemies.

I am an idealist and I want to change the world for the better and I want to do that through using technology to improve people's lives. But that's not enough, and how could that ever be enough, when people still hate and people still hurt one another and people still think other people deserve to be murdered?

I don't understand, and I don't understand, and I don't understand.

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Ultimately I think that climate disruption is the biggest and most existential threat to the planet at the moment. Its trickle-down effect on geopolitical tensions and its disproportionate impact on low-income and otherwise marginalized groups also make it one of the most far-reaching problems. Normally I feel comfortable saying that but today it's difficult because there are urgent problems in the world where people have died and some people dying now has a harsher emotional impact than many people dying in the future.

What can we do?

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