To the Memory of a Voice

Memorial Day. A long weekend. A tribute to those lost.

I should be happy that I have a three day weekend. And I am. Though I did send a work email this morning.

So many emails lately are even less useful than before. They are an exercise in skirting around any direct statement, nudging people to any corrective action. Not saying too much, in case the blame lands on the messenger. This political hesitancy has affected everything I say or do. Skirting around the edges, like one of the mice I used to live with. Leaving a slightly dark, gritty line along the baseboards.

Isn’t that what office dress and makeup are for? To hide any traces of the nest we emerge from, blinking, and return to, exhausted, spent, demoralized?

A co-worker said to me, “They are breaking us – like wild horses. They are breaking our spirit.”

One minute, free. The next, tied to the yoke. Believing that we need it – the money, the role, the repetition. They insult us, parade their achievements – like joining an exclusive club – hoping that we do what? Admire them? Leave? Be a silent, broken audience?

As the insanity of the world spins around us, the invasion – wait. It’s all invasion. A country of innocent people. A school of innocent children and teachers. Invaded by evil, enabled by greed, accepted as inevitable in the narrative we are fed. The same narrative that claims billionaires and poverty can exist in the same world, that guns and freedom are linked, that women’s bodies can be the arena of law, but mouths and noses can’t be touched.

It’s schizophrenia.

Insanity on such a huge scale.

I know someone who does nothing but tell me about all the people she sees, the outings she goes on, the dinners to which she is invited. I am the poor country mouse who stays at home, and tries to find equilibrium. Am I supposed to applaud? Admire? Be envious?

Again – admire them? Leave? Be a silent, broken audience?

The coercion toward conformity.

Brexit was one of the first narratives that introduced huge rifts. Trump, obviously. Boris Johnson. Guns. Racism. Abortion. Women’s rights. Ukraine.

Everything has been made to have a side, and the facts, like lorry queues at ports, or parties during lockdown, have become evidence that a lawyer sweeps aside.

I work with a lawyer. I have to say, I admire their ability to say two opposing things in the same discussion and blame the other side each time, while making it seem that they always believed that we were at war with Eurasia.

Orwell. Did he realize that he was foreshadowing a breakdown in mental processes? That faced with the rat, we would all break?

The act of expressing something, stumbling towards some kind of understanding, has to be, is the only way out.

There was a quote about a film in a book I was reading by Sara Ahmed called Complaint! It said:

She sits there silently. A question of silence: she can hear how she was not heard; she knows how and why she is passed over. She is just a secretary; she is the only woman seated at a table of men: she is not supposed to have ideas of her own; she is supposed to write down their ideas. To hear with a feminist ear is to hear who is not heard, how we are not heard. If we are taught to tune out some people, then a feminist ear is an achievement. We become attuned to those who are tuned out, and we can be those, which means becoming attuned to ourselves can also be an achievement.

To go from writing down their ideas to hearing our own.

Perhaps that’s the only victory over the invaders that is possible for now. Only for now.

© Alice Severin 2022