This is our truth, tell us yours
If like me you spend too much time checking twitter to see what the world, or at least your small self selected corner of it, thinks you will be used to seeing news as a process rather than the traditional event. Information spreading in an organic way until a critical mass is reached. Ferguson is perhaps the most recent example of this where a few people on the ground alerted the world to the murder of Mike Brown within minutes of it happening.
So I have found myself intrigued, and puzzled in this week of such a major news story to see how my timeline reacted to it, how it opinions were reached, how almost everyone had a view. Did Diana sabotage Iain? Should he have gone, is she really “too ill to continue”? Surprised by my choice of topic for this weeks sermon? Not as much as I was, and am, by the reaction to the story I assumed would unite my timeline as it seems only baked alaska can. The major story for both myself, and carter was of course the report into Rotherham, the missed opportunities and failures. We both have given very personal accounts of our own childhoods here, and here. Carter has also tried to look at wider lessons, and more useful ones that blaming one or two individuals.
Of course given our backgrounds it might be obvious that such a story is more important to us than others. Except, the sort of people I follow and interact with on twitter have always had plenty to say about Saville, Harris and Hall. Child abuse has not been a topic people have shied away from in the past, indeed I have had to stay away from social media at times as people talked about it at such length even logging in caused me distress.
There is a term charities use, compassion fatigue. It is true that we do seem to react differently to some events now. I am old enough to remember the Micheal Burke news report from Ethiopia and the reaction, how the whole country seemed moved to do something, even if that something was buying a charity single. However recent events in Gaza showed that people are still moved by suffering and do demand their opinions be heard, the demand that something be done.
It may be vanity but I also find it hard to believe that the people I chose to interact with on social media do not care about the mass rape, the torture of children. Sometimes though it is easier to care about things that happen on the other side of the world. Everyone seems to know what would solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but how to tackle the darkness in their own community, street, church, town, house?
A foreign conflict or a celebrity abuser is just removed enough from our lives to pass comment and think, well there isn’t actually anything I can do. People may call for a boycott or use events as a stick to beat their favourite hobby horse but actual change or self examination is not needed. You can turn over and watch Great british Bake Off even while the taxis pull up at the house next door. This might sound as if it is a traditional sermon, a exhortation of how holy I am whilst berating others. It isn’t meant to. In conversation this week Carter confessed that he was worried about whether he would have noticed what was happening in Rotherham, whether he would have done something. I have to confess the same, and say with all honestly I dont know. I also understand the desire to look at lighter things when the world is unrelentingly grim. My chosen method of escape may be journeying through Skyrim with my kick ass lesbian lover and adopting waifs and strays, but it is still an escape, me saying I need to turn off the world.
We must be careful though (and that we includes me) that the desire to look away is not also a desire to not look inward, to consider our own culpability in creating a world where victims are not listened too and we are angrier about melted icecream than abused children. It will always be hard to consider could I have done anything, but it must be done if we are to learn from the lessons of the past.
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