What do you say when there’s nothing to be said?

Rosemary Mac Cabe know what to say

It’s really difficult to know what to say when, really, there’s nothing you can say.

I’m writing this from a poolside bar in Lagos, Portugal. I’m here on the second Lift in Lagos retreat; we’re doing two training sessions a day and eating healthy food and spending our afternoons sunbathing and feeling tired and footsore. It’s not a particularly taxing time.

Meanwhile, there are people dying – there are always people dying. As I type, the death toll in a shooting in the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas has risen to 50. Rohingya Muslims are fleeing their homes amid accusations of a genocide by a government whose leader we once revered for her fairness. Syrians (and other people driven from their homes by ISIS, by poverty, by chance and circumstance) are still living in refugee camps all over Europe, in conditions that I wouldn’t deem suitable for my precious dog.

Like I said, it’s hard to know what to say.

I frequently find myself complaining (I know – you’re shocked) about people who say they don’t watch the news. “It makes no difference to my life, so why depress myself?” they’ll ask. I’ll say that I think it’s willfully ignorant and frankly disrespectful not to at least acknowledge your privilege – to acknowledge the structure that has allowed you to prosper, while others suffer. I’ll say that I think we have a responsibility to be aware of what’s going on in the world, to recognise how lucky we are. I’ll say that I think we should feel a little guilty for the things we have that other people do not.

But: what difference does this make?

At the end of the day (i ndeireadh na dála, one of the few Irish phrases that’s stuck with me – I feel guilty for that, too), it makes no difference how much guilt I feel. It makes no difference how much news I watch, how aware I am, how much I recognise my privilege. It’s not helping. I’m not helping.

I see people tweeting, updating their Facebook statuses, speaking into their phones on Snapchat, telling their followers how saddened they are by what’s going on in the world. My initial reaction is to kind of scoff at this, this public outpouring of… of what? Of acknowledgement? Of recognition of privilege? This moment, when people do exactly what I think other people should be doing… Maybe I’ll never be happy with what anyone does. (Again: I’m sure you’re shocked.)

This is not a manifesto. This is not a diatribe. I have no ideas.

I could suggest giving to charity, but that would make me a hypocrite because I haven’t given to charity in a while. Excuses: I’ve been broke; I’ve been changing jobs; I’ve been struggling to pay my rent (but I’ve also been buying new gym gear, so, y’know).

I could suggest volunteering for a charity, but which charity? And, if I think we should be volunteering, why don’t I volunteer? (Obvious reasons: I have no skill. Charities don’t need personal trainers, or bloggers, or former journalists who now write light features about bodybuilding.)

So I sit by the pool and I type and I read the news stories and I feel guilty – because that’s what I think people should do. But to what end?

Like I said, it’s hard to know what to say.

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