There’s a newsletter I get from Katherine Goldstein, who writes about the issues facing working parents (especially mothers).
In the latest edition, there was a paragraph that struck me with force:
On Friday, I was solo parenting the twins all day. We were all healthy and not yet COVID positive and during their nap time I laser-focused and plowed through finishing an op-ed, hitting my deadline just as I started to hear squeaks on the monitor. I felt proud of “getting it all done” and by the time it was bedtime for the tots I was completely spent – but it was a successful one-day sprint. I then started to think about how so many parents (especially moms) were forced to do this kind of sprint, day after day, month after month, for a year+ with no social support. I feel like the world has already forgotten this, and there is no compensation or reparation for how we’ve kept society going when society doesn’t give a shit about us. I am angry all over again at the government, society, and workplaces who’s message to parents is, “sucks to be you.” I will never, as long as I live, accept that this is OK. Tuning back into this injustice reminds me of why I do what I do. (my emphasis)
I am long past the stage of racing to get things done while the toddler sleeps – but I remember it well. Now that my toddler is 19 and holding down a job, I am able to work at my own pace, make lists in the knowledge I will get things done, plan whole weekends where I will make a quilt or read a book.
But that line about how the world has forgotten the working moms, how society doesn’t give a shit, describes what I have been seeing these last few months. I’m not just cross about the neglect of working parents (though I am very cross about that), I’m cross about the bigger (much bigger) neglect that characterises the world we live in.
I work part-time for an African-centric website, allAfrica.com, and spend a lot of time processing articles about climate change, about gender violence, about tyranny and abuse of power, about arrests and deaths of journalists, about malnourished children, about floods and droughts and plagues of locusts. (Not that this is the only news about Africa – for the moment, it’s the news that’s been standing out for me).
Mostly I am able to do what journalists do, push away the emotional triggers inherent in these things, and get the job done.
But lately I find myself in a perpetual state of crossness.
How have we humans managed to make such a mess? How do we put all the poison into the world that we do, day after day? Why do so many of us treat other people as if they are things? How is it that thieves, oligarchs and idiots still rule the world?
In Death to my Hometown (lyrics here), Bruce Springsteen characterises the people who bring death as they walk like this:
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now
Just this morning, I read that Somalia is facing a famine. A World Food Progamme officer “warned that the agency is now ‘taking from the hungry to feed the starving’ as it struggles to scale up its emergency response to 2.5 million people in Somalia – ‘a next to impossible feat, considering our relief funding gap of $149 million’. (my emphasis).
And across the Atlantic, a mega-millionaire has bought shares in a completely life-irrelevant social media platform. His shares are worth about $3 billion. I’m not suggesting Elon Musk needs to put money into Somalia instead of dicking around with Twitter. Who am I to say what he should spend his money on? And yet people are starving. Children are dying, while stock markets boom because a platform on which people slag each other off has attracted the interest of an eccentric rich dude.
What, in the name of all the goddesses, are we going to do about all this?
How do we look the 19-year-olds in the eye and think that it is up to them to fix this?
It’s up to the old, I think
I’m turning 60 in several days time, and I feel a change coming on.
It seems to me there are three ways to get old:
- To be old and complacent
- To be old and crabby
- To be old and cross
I find myself old and very, very cross. But just being cross is not enough.
That Springsteen song, Death to My Hometown, is from his Wrecking Ball album which came out in 2012. Rolling Stone describes the album as “a scathing indictment of Wall Street greed and corruption and a look into the devastation it has wrought”. It is all of those things, but as I listen to it now, 10 years later, with a Covid-19 pandemic still killing people and human-induced climate change roaring around the world, the lines “They left our bodies on the plains / The vultures picked our bones” aptly describe all the devastation we see around us.
And the Boss was not wrong, in 2012, when he sang: “Be ready when they [the robber barons] come, For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun.” They just never go away.
Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it till you’re done
Sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
My question now, for myself: What song should I be singing? What can I usefully do to make an end to this mess? Is there just one thing that would make a difference? My research project starts now – I will be keeping you posted.
Main picture: Markus Spiske, Unsplash
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