It’s hard to know what to say at the moment. We’re almost a week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but it seems that things are still unfolding at a disorientating and uneven rate.
The last few days, my mind has been — if I’m completely honest — on other things (specifically, moving house). But as I feel disconnected from everything, unfortunately trapped in my little bubble of mundane logistical arrangements, occasionally glancing at the chaos outside, I’ve been increasingly aware of my little window on the world, and those of other people as well. Every time I look, it makes me feel worse.
I saw some comments going viral in the US about not commenting on Ukraine if you can’t name its bordering nations, for example. I’m not sure what this is supposed to prove. Nor do I understand why the US always equates political virtue with geographic knowledge? That seems like the legacy of mid-Noughties European bullying and the general perception of American ignorance. Personally, I’m not sure listing off countries like you just won the final round of your local pub quiz gets you as many Brownie points as you think it does… Ultimately, even if you know where things are on a map, the US still seems largely detached from reality to the rest of the world, no matter where your ancestors are from.
Things are no better on home soil, of course. (Are they ever?) Tory warmongerers display their throbbing hard-ons for stolen valour, invoking the legacy of World War II or, even further back, the Crimean War, despite the fact everyone knows they’re very currently complicit in oligarch money-laundering. Their often wobbly historical knowledge resounds as dissonantly as American geographic knowledge — the past is another country to these people, and I’m not sure they could name its bordering nations either. The memory-holing of more recent conflicts, particularly the post-Soviet unrest in Europe in the 1990s, is particularly bizarre but unsurprising.
And of course, there is the amount and type of attention paid, particularly by rolling news journalists. With Israel’s atrocities still ongoing and looming large in recent memory, never mind images from other countries currently at war, killing each other with US and UK arms, the coverage has been as eye-opening as it has been mind-numbing. It’s not just that there is war in Europe but a war among “white people” — scare quotes for the obvious reductionism. “War has broken out in civilisation”, they exclaimed, shocked and appalled. It’s like someone’s turned Midsummer Murders into a globe-trotting drama. “Things like this don’t happen here!”, says the local neighbourhood watch representative — except when they do, continuously, and usually at the hands of people like you.
Amidst all this noise, what is there to say? I’m finding listening hard enough. How to filter through the shit streaming out of every outlet? Plenty of people are doing valiant and increasingly necessary work to separate fact from fiction, of course, but this also feels like the crescendo of a series of waves of disinformation that have defined every crisis of the last few years — domestic and otherwise. From Trump to Covid to whatever else — take your pick — we’ve hardly learnt a thing. Wanting to write authoritatively about a war between Russia and Ukraine without an inordinate amount of expertise feels like King Cnut wanking into the approaching tsunami, but it hasn’t stopped most.
There is, of course, the ambient sense that if you’re not talking about all of this, there’s something wrong with you. But there’s equally a sensation that comes from the other side — if you are talking about this, are you really saying anything? Or just contributing to the information smokescreen? The libs are doing cringe Marvel takes again! But it feels like cringe all the way down. I hate the posturing as much as I hate the cynicism. I hate the noise. All the noise, the constant noise, seems like petty squabbling whilst the world burns.
I offer my solidarity to those who are fighting, in Ukraine and elsewhere, against imperialist forces. I can’t offer anything else. It’s not much, if anything at all, and finding the right way to say it online feels like trying to gracefully jump onto a furiously spinning platform. Why does everything always feel like too much too soon or too little too late?
Meanwhile, I’m booking removal vans and packing up my life as the Home Office once again says the quiet part loud regarding who’s the right kind of refugee.
I think I best be logging off.