“About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters. How it took place whilst someone else was eating or walking dully along“
I’m Only Human
The term “human condition”, commonly employed in literary, psychological and philosophical theory, is an attempted articulation for the “tragic” reality of being human. It explores the reality of our mortality and our physical limitations as well as the contrast to our ability to be affected on an emotional level in contrast to animals or deities as well as our vanity and how it affects our existence in relation to each other. Suffering – of all sorts – are unfortunately a symptom of being human. Why do I bring all this up? You may be wondering. Well let’s briefly look at the poem our opening quote derives from:
Auden, is describing the effectiveness of painters (“Old Masters”) in capturing human suffering, through art. Suffering takes place whilst the rest of the world carries on in a quotidian manner with whatever it is they have to do. He describes how whilst the wise men waited reverently for the “miraculous birth” (of Christ that is), there were kids “who did not especially want it to happen” and is referring here to the first born baby boys who were being killed by Herod whilst Mary had an audience for her barn delivery. Furthermore, in the same stanza he continues to describe the “dreadful martyrdom” (of a disciple) and how “Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot/Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse/Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.” The deliberate employment of such pedestrian vocabulary to describe extraordinary events is a somewhat jarring experience for the reader. Juxtaposing the ordinary with the extraordinary serves to emphasise the gravity of the disastrous events. Regardless of what is happening in the world, we all have the momentary sigh of sadness and take but seconds of our collective existences to ponder upon the suffering of others. But even after hearing the most terrible things are happening around us, we only ever REALLY stop if we’re directly affected by them. We exacerbate our own minor first world issues, knowing that others are going through so much worse but are burdened by the symptoms of the human condition.
It’s A Colourful World – Well, Briefly…
All of that background was definitely not without purpose. We’ve finally reached the point of this whole post. As you may or may not had seen, about 6 weeks ago many people decided to take action by changing their twitter avis to one or more colours, to raise awareness for massacres, famine and wars across the world.
So far the colours are Blue for the Sudan massacre, Yellow for the Congo war of 18 years and Red for the famine in Yemen. And the idea seemed great. I changed my own avi but literally took it down in less than 24 hrs but, we’ll get on to that later.
Anyways, weeks ago, you’d open twitter and see blue avis everywhere, some split with yellow and others red but it really was a colourful world of peaceful protest on my twitter… for about a week. It took people no time at all to revert back to their original avis. And it made me wonder – why did you all do it in the first place? Do we raise awareness for 3 days then continue on with what we were doing before? The human condition. The state of being human and having a sense of self which we place before the needs of others. “About suffering, they were never wrong” – we will always have “somewhere to get to” or something better to do than stand up for the suffering of others. Whilst we complain about the most ridiculous things, someone, somewhere is dying. It’s so easy to do so when you physically cannot see the suffering.
Why I Changed My Avi
I changed mine back so quickly and yes that makes me like everyone else who did because I’m sure they have their reasons too but here’s mine:
1. I didn’t think I was affecting any real change
I’m constantly reminded by one of my good friends that black twitter only makes up a small part of twitter and to tap into black twitter, everyone else would have to be following a specific set of people. The coloured avis hadn’t even reached the whole of UK black twitter before people started backing out of the movement.
2. I didn’t want the movement to be associated with my trivial interactions
War, massacre and famine are very serious and devastating situations. I couldn’t take myself seriously tweeting absolute nonsense whilst my Twitter was supposedly advocating for something so serious – it just didn’t feel like the right platform.
3. There aren’t enough colours in this colourful world
There is so much wrong with the world. It’s great that people started to add colours how many colours will you have in your avi to raise awareness for all the wrongs in the world? There just aren’t enough colours or enough space in that circle to depict the world’s suffering.
4. The Sufferlympics
This is the ultimate reason for why I decided to take no part in the his coloured avi movement. The Sufferlympics, as I’ve chosen to call them, is this very weird and uncomfortable thing that people do where they compare a range of tragic events in the world, past or current, and argue which is the most important/significant. Lol what’s wrong with you people? People are dying, you’ve changed your avis and now you’re arguing about the colours and that someone else is suffering more so we should be raising awareness for that instead. It honestly makes little to no sense and renders whatever colour you’ve chosen to display as futile because you’ve undermined someone else’s suffering. So what are you fighting for? Who are you raising awareness for?
So what now? An Inconclusive Conclusion
So we put up the avis and now they’re gone – what are we doing now? I won’t ask anything of anyone. But sometimes stop and take the time to consider how you exist in a world with so much suffering and actively do something to change that. It could be so small – like giving a homeless person change or it could be massive like getting involved in schemes to help people refugees from these countries that are experiencing wars. I won’t tell you – you decide. And when we are mature enough to come together and do something as a community then let’s – but for now I don’t believe that we have the emotional range to band together as a collective and effect real change.
The Human Condition – An actual Conclusion
The best thing about humanity is that for all the bad things that we face and do to each other, part of being human is being resilient enough to just keep going.
Keep Going, keep fighting for the lives and rights of others “because that’s what we do.”