“Everything’s near collapse, the world is burning, there’s too much going on, the situation is escalating.” This is my clumsy rendering of a sentence by Dutch singer-songwriter Boudewijn de Groot who is sometimes referred to as “the Dutch Bob Dylan”. I used to listen to one of his records throughout the late seventies and early eighties. That sentence above is from a song discussing the phenomena ‘shooting the messenger‘. Over the years, I would sing that one sentence whenever I felt the need to console myself. The rest of the song I couldn’t remember, but these words reminded me that the chaos and destruction caused by humankind are of all times. A reminder that it only seems to get worse because of mass media, social media and a burgeoning world population.
Over the past 24 hours, these words have begun circling in my head again. It’s part of my way of coping with hearing about what’s going on in the world right now. I understand why people burn things down. Sometimes enough is enough and there’s nothing left to lose. Actually, I don’t understand it hasn’t happened sooner or more often. I’m not just talking about the current events in the US and all the injustices done to people (and other creatures and plants!) What strikes me is that we’ve been incredibly meek for centuries. Not that I’d ever encourage anyone to act seditiously – if only because this can easily land you in jail in any country.
And yet, it seems okay to trample protected lizards’ habitats on our mountain bikes, kill billions of animals worldwide every year for butter, cheese and meat, pollute the air and produce so many thousands of tons of plastic a day it boggles the mind. Somehow that’s all okay. I’ve always wondered who exactly allows all this to carry on? Our so-called leaders? Most of us collectively? Why don’t we simply stop doing whatever contributes to lovelessness, habitat devastation and greed? (Sitara, you don’t understand, it’s not that simple.)
“Foul your army box and you will succumb to your own filth”
Whether or not Chief Seattle actually spoke these words attributed to him (the authenticity of his letter is questioned, as there seem to be so many versions), they are prophetic and true: “The great chief in Washington can surely count on us, just as our white brothers can count on the return of the seasons. My words are like stars. They do not disappear. (…) Even the white man will perish, perhaps sooner than all the other tribes. Foul your army box and you will succumb to your own filth. But in your doom, you will burn with fire, kindled by the power of the god who brought you to this land and gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That fateful end is a mystery to us, for we do not understand why the buffalo have been slaughtered, the wild horses have been tamed, why the farthest corners of the forest stink to the skies of many men, and the ripe corn on the hills is covered with talking wires.”
Today, Boudewijn keeps singing in my head (and on YouTube): “Everything’s near collapse, the world is burning, there’s too much going on, the situation is escalating.”
My dear late mum would have responded with one of her favourite Dutch sayings: “Only calmness can save you now”. This was often her note-to-self and sometimes her admonishment to me when I threw a tantrum. I think it’s true, but not after some things have been set on fire, literally and figuratively.
Besides, one doesn’t exclude the other. It’s possible to kick and scream outwardly while being inwardly serene. Because sometimes this is simply appropriate and unavoidable.
© Sitara Morgenster