Depending on the angle that you are looking from, the world can seem like a pretty ugly and terrifying place full of misery and suffering. It doesn’t pay to look too closely if you want to avoid sobbing on the ground in the foetal position. Without even being aware of it, we all tie on our survival blindfold every day. It is the only way that we can ignore the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters and get on with the real worries of the day, like what to have for lunch.
The newspaper must be treated like a racy storybook….full of gory little tidbits to quicken the heart rate and add spice to a dull day. For if we were to truly empathise with the humans portrayed…to feel with our own feelings…to soak our nerves in the molasses of misery, we would feel it as viscerally as a punch to the gut.
To be a truly empathetic being is to be constantly wounded.
I don’t read, watch or listen to the news because it makes me feel like my soul has been mugged.
In a completely white room, a single black chair sits dead centre. A plain-faced man in dapper suit and bowling hat enters quietly and takes the seat, placing his briefcase on his lap. Once settled, he theatrically opens the briefcase and removes a newspaper, cracking it for effect. With exaggerated attention he moves his head from side to side as he reads. We’re already irritated. What is this Marcel Marceau bullshit?
The words that our man is reading appear on the screen, writing on like newspaper type:
HEAD ON COLLISION: Two motorists dead after fatal collision on Highway
As the man takes in what he is reading, a ninja-like character, covered head-to-toe in a black lycra suit springs agilely into the scene and prances across to our man, pinching him sharply on the arm before dashing off. The man on the chair reacts with hurt surprise. Rubbing his pinched arm, he returns to reading. Another headline types on:
MISSING TODDLER FOUND DEAD: Three year old boy who went missing from the local playground while his mother talked with friends has been found dumped in the bushes.
While our man reads this sad story, the Ninja returns and slaps him forcefully across the face on either cheek. Again our man in the chair reacts with self-pity, but he doesn’t look to blame the Ninja. Instead he rubs his cheek gingerly and puts the newspaper away. From his briefcase he pulls out a portable radio, makes a show of extending the antennae and switches it on. Settling back to listen to the radio, we hear the distinct voice of a radio news announcer disseminating more bad news:
“In Syria today, more bloodshed as thousands fled their homes. Russian airstrikes devastated local villages, killing hundreds……(The horrible facts drone on)”
This time two Ninjas appear to unleash more violence upon the man in his chair as he listens. Like mischievous kittens, they frisk around the man, punching, kicking, hair-pulling and slapping as the radio voice continues it’s awful litany of violence, terror and tragedy from around the world. The man is exasperated, hurt and self-pitying, but he continues to take no notice of the Ninjas. Rather he switches off his radio in disgust and the Ninjas melt away.
Looking slightly dishevelled from all the rough-housing, the man in the suit opens his briefcase again and extracts a TV remote. With a smug look of self-congratulation he points the remote into the middle-distance and switches it on. An explosion of imagery immediately fills the white space around the man. A cacophony of competing commentaries shatter the silence. Our man rises slowly from the chair in shock and disbelief. His head swivels at the sound of each new horror. Eyes dart left and right, taking in scenes of war and disaster, death and destruction. He flinches theatrically, the images of violence from the news appear to physically affect him. At the same moment a gang of Ninjas burst in and attack the man with the calculated violence of professional hitmen. Mirroring the brutality on the screen, they beat the man within an inch of his life. Cowering from the attacks, the man desperately crawls for the remote, mimicking scenes from a movie where the attacked person tries desperately to reach for a gun.
Finally he reaches the remote and switches off the TV. The images zap off and silence returns. The Ninjas leave their victim in a heap on the floor, bloody and beaten, with a few parting kicks for good measure.