Breaking the silence

The silence is coming to an end. The silence has a lesson to teach us. Will we listen? Will we learn? Some thoughts on the end of the coronavirus lockdown and on Black Lives Matter.

Sometimes silence is a friend.

At so many moments these past few months, a silence like I’ve never known has enveloped the world. Each of us has had to come to terms with lockdown life, to make sense of what the silence might be trying to tell us.

What has the silence meant to you?

For me, the initial eeriness is gone. I must confess that I have been – to coin a phrase – enjoying the silence.* There can be beauty in this silence. But the silence has never felt normal, never felt like something to be taken for granted. It has to come to an end at some point.

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People are returning to the streets. Aeroplanes are returning to the skies. “Carbon emissions, crime and air pollution all fell but are now starting to rebound”, the Guardian reports.

I am already missing the silence. It seems I’m not entirely alone. In A quiet space, Julian Summerhayes speaks of “missing the silence of early lockdown”. He shares his misgivings about the apparent rush to resume life exactly where it left off, exactly as it was before. Julian says:

“I can’t say everything’s back to normal but as soon as I step outside, BOOM, there it is! That infernal, torrid background noise, cars everywhere (the air smells dirty) and it’s like nothing ever happened.”

Like nothing ever happened?

It’s like nothing ever happened. These few words capture my own feeling of apprehension about the rush to reopen. The needs for economic survival and physical survival must be delicately balanced. This is no time for impatience. It’s no time for thinking that this coronavirus thing is getting to be a little old hat, and can safely be ignored. I don’t want hindsight to prove this a premature decision on humanity’s part. I fear that a horrific second wave of the coronavirus pandemic might soon engulf us. I hope that I am entirely wrong on this. But for now, as my friend Kaveri tweeted yesterday:

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“Just a reminder – the pandemic isn’t over. Please behave.”

For better or worse, the world is waking up again. Breaking the silence. The silence brought by the coronavirus pandemic offered us the opportunity to learn. We had the chance to experience life stripped of distractions, says Julian:

“Take all that away – especially the bloody mobile phone – and what’s left? having to be with yourself – all body, mind and soul. Is that why we’re so scared of or avoid silence? I don’t know. But when you realise that you’re not your thoughts, notwithstanding the apparent hold they have over us, and see that they flow naturally much like my beloved River Dart and there’s nothing we can do to orientate them one way or the other, life becomes a lot easier.”

The silence had a lesson for us.

Did we listen? Did we learn?

Words from an America on fire

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Sometimes silence is not a friend.

So many people around the world are raising their voices in the outpouring of emotion that has followed the killing of George Floyd. Voices that need to be heard, breaking a silence that needs to be broken. As I wrote in my previous post:

“Listening is vital. Now more than ever. This is a time for some of us to speak. It’s a time for others to listen with compassion and empathy.”

In a recent episode of the Moodhouse podcast entitled America on Fire , three US-based people of colour – host Moodie Black and guests Myke C-Town** and Chief – share their thoughts on the chaos of the modern world. No answers here. Just three souls – three good friends – looking at the world and expressing their anger, fear, bemusement – and occasional amusement.

They discuss the complexities of the Black Lives Matter debate and the coronavirus pandemic. There are striking parallels between how they perceive the response of parts of US society to these issues.

On America’s rush to reopen from lockdown, they note that many people seem to have decided that they are “over” the coronavirus threat, and that they can resume life exactly as it was before. It’s like nothing ever happened. Coronavirus is cancelled, you might say.

On the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Myke C-Town speaks with furious incredulity about being called out online by a number of white people for not participating in Blackout Tuesday. He argues that the immediate aftermath of a tweeted presidential threat of military intervention against protesters is no time to be silent. Myke says:

“They don’t understand that destroying or even lessening the power of white supremacy is going to take more than a couple of Facebook posts. They really don’t get that. They think that if they all fucking join hands in some fucking e-Kumbaya bullshit that that is going to solve racism.”

Chief agrees, and expresses his concern that the lessons of the past have not been learnt:

“It feels like people are already gearing themselves for a victory and being able to say racism is over when that’s the same bullshit they said the day that Obama was elected. It’s like this is just a game to a lot of people.”

Racism has not been cancelled. The coronavirus pandemic has not been cancelled. There is so much work to be done. The silence is ending. This is no time for impatience. This is a time for some of us to speak. It’s a time for others to listen with compassion and empathy. It’s a time to learn.

Will we listen? Will we learn?

FOOTNOTES

* Like the classic Depeche Mode song says: Enjoy the Silence.

** I came across this podcast as I am a huge fan of Myke C-Town’s YouTube channel, and his contributions to the Dead End Hip Hop channel. He has a hugely diverse music taste, strong opinions wittily stated… and I love the way that he invites viewers to leave comments “down thurr”. For a gentle introduction to his channel, here’s Myke’s celebration of The Cure’s Disintegration album.

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