Hot tar. Fingers in ears. Tongue stuck out in defiance.
The sound of skipping ropes hitting the pavement. And the smell of chalk lines drawn for hopscotch.
Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me.
And then the adult version.
Ignorance is bliss.
Well, maybe not quite the same thing. But my mind draws a parallel between the two – between this image of blocking something out and pretending it doesn’t exist.
All so that it doesn’t hurt you.
It’s true that there are a lot of things out there that could hurt you.
One of my favourites is to fantasise about tripping down the stairs and knocking my front teeth out. Not entirely unfounded because technically I’ve done this before.
And hikes are semi-ruined because the threat of a snake around any corner now looms large.
Nevermind Gates’ call to prepare for the next big you-know-what. Give us a break, would you?
The point is, we seem to be constantly reminded of all that could go imminently wrong. And for anyone brave enough to pick up a newspaper, or flip on the news, you’ll be all to familiar with the myriad opportunities to panic.
On the brink of war.
At the risk of disease.
And don’t – I mean it now – don’t Google your symptoms.
All the uncountable causes that need our attention.
And it seems like there’s never enough – never enough money or support or goodwill or energy to fix it all.
Compassion fatigue, they called it in Journ school. An uncomfortable term – guilt-ridden, First World problems, awkwardly analysed from a pedestal of privilege. We all have it as South Africans, they said.
Don’t-see-it-don’t-hear-it-it’s-all-too-much. Everything-is-just-tooooooo-hard. Cue exasperated sigh.
Or is it?
I read a book recently that begged to differ.
It said we’re living in the Golden Age of it all.
A scientist, somewhere in a lab coat doing science-y things, said that if we lived in the times of the Romans, and wanted the lifestyle we enjoyed today, we’d need about 6000 slaves.
6000 toiling, sun-beaten humans to cultivate and cook our food, make our music, raise our animals (a dozen horses for our travel alone). All to bring us the chicken breast wrapped in polystyrene and plastic that we pluck from a perfectly tempered fridge for our dinner. Or deliver us music at the touch of a button. Or to do our bidding via voice command. Please me! Feed me! Delight me! And all of it, now.
And then watch this pleasantly pastoral video of one man going through all the stages of sowing and pulling and retting and stooking and crimping (and a dozen other steps but I’ll be honest I skimmed it and so did you) just to produce this fine fibre.
So back to the main point.
Which was somewhere between 21st century panic and compassion fatigue.
Which brings me to another word.
What does it really even mean? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to you?
Is it just a buzzword?
A little green pill to help us sleep better at night.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to do my recycling.
We get up in arms about the plastic around our fruit.
(I think about stepping into a Starbucks in Seoul. A sad drama played out by a single banana sold at the counter. Wrapped in plastic as if it didn’t have it’s own very perfect, very concealing, very life-lengthening skin).
But then I heard someone on TV saying how plastic actually makes our food last longer.
And I think about the baby marrows in my fridge that have been there for 3 weeks and honestly I’m happy that they still look good, in their little plastic nest, and that I didn’t have to throw them out. Because that !that! really would be a waste of Mother Nature’s blessings.
But the point is – how long is a piece of [sustainable] string?
How much of our well-intentioned, planet-saving endeavours are really just that – endeavours.
But we’re all trying our best, aren’t we?
So yes, one more thing to consider may just be too much.
(And the category is… buggered!)
Maybe we want to be blinkered a bit.
Maybe we want to eat a cheeseburger without worrying about carcinogens or calories or the 660 gallons of water that made it happen.
But let me not beat around the burning bush.
I’m talking about the c-word.
No, not that one.
It uses a lot of water.
Takes up a lot of arable land.
Destroys soil nutrients.
And it’s pretty bad for for the health of farmers.
And to be fair, us humans use a lot of it.
Like, a lot.
So what do we do?
There’s no one-size, neat-fit, easy answer. There never is.
It uses up to 90% less water.
Requires far less energy.
Doesn’t need pesticides.
Protects water supplies.
Protects the farmers.
Protects the soil.
All that good stuff.
So there’s the bit.
There’s the plug.
This has been an irreverent blog.
For an irreverent generation.
But I’m not too superior to admit I’m part of the problem.
Use it. Don’t use it.
Shop. Don’t shop.
It’s your choice.
But don’t stick your fingers in your ears.