No alarms and no opinions

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In November 2015 I didn't have much of an opinion. I lived, as many of us did, between various jobs and personal commitments and financial worries.

Ellena Savage with Mali flag overlayI pulled clothes from my wardrobe and piled them up to take to the consignment store. I tried to save some unhappy pot plants. I found some nice heirloom tomatoes at a grocer down the street. I discovered that my local bakery makes a more generous falafel platter on weekdays than they do on weekends.

In November 2015 I did not change my profile picture to a European flag. I did not post a link to a fresh journalistic insight into a large gang of men with machetes who, like bored teens, are desperate to make something happen, to feel relevant in the empty ravine of history.

I felt mild joy for Myanmar, but if I am honest, I don't know enough about Myanmar to legitimately feel anything about it. I felt a generic brand of indignant that the Bamako attacks went relatively unnoticed, that no-one changed their profile pictures to the Mali flag after 170 people were taken hostage there. And then my indignation dissolved when I remembered that I didn't know what the Mali flag looked like.

In November 2015 I was neither all that shocked nor especially appalled. I felt sad at all the lives wasted to murder and those wasted to a dogmatism that prohibits love.

I felt a blank kind of sadness for my friends who had to demonstrate having opinions because their silence would be read as something sinister. I felt even sadder for friends who demonstrated an opinion when there was no reason at all for them to, except that they needed to have their morality heard.

I felt an existential kind of sadness for young people, who acutely understand the world they are entering but are, for now, powerless to change it. But I also felt sad for the adults I know whose lives are almost just as wasted by working jobs that bring them just enough money to pay for the therapy they require from working their jobs.

In November 2015 I neither innovated nor synergised. I did not attend an un-conference, or eat a novel consumer item at a multi-million-dollar fitted out café. I did not catch a flying jaffle.

I did not ask the question 'what if?'. I did, however, drink a beer at a pub that used to have a pool table but doesn't any more. That was the only time I felt truly sad for my city, for anyone who is here searching for something other than polished concrete floors and perfectly-waxed facial hair.

In a dysfunctional turn, I began piling my newly clean laundry on top of the pile of unwanted clothes: towels I forgot to put on their shelf in the laundry, sheets I had yet to wedge into the tiny chasm at the top of my wardrobe, workout clothes I had laid out so I'd be motivated to actually work out.

After three weeks of watching this pile swell, I considered dumping it all in the bin, towels included. If a person can bring themself to massacre teenagers at rock concerts, I could probably cope with chucking half of my worldly possessions in the bin. I did not ask 'what if?'. I asked 'why not?'.

On 29 November my brother, who studies environmental science, said that putting stuff in the recycling bin is actually more wasteful than just putting stuff in the regular bin, and while this challenged the propaganda I fed on in childhood — Fern Gully and Captain Planet — I felt compelled to believe him.

I vowed to never buy a can of coke again, until I did.

Even better for the environment, he said, would be if none of us existed at all.

I know of environmental scientists who won't have children because they don't want to bring new generations into a world that will be chaos. I'm not sure if this is an opinion or an informed choice.

I'm not sure about opinions any more, because I value sincerity, and on the internet the two things share the same surfaces, but one of them is dangerous and the other's pure trust.

One afternoon I came home from a meeting and I looked upon this pile of fabric, all fairly clean, some garments never worn — cottons and silks and polyesters and rayons — and I saw a metaphor for my time: decadence and consumption, waste, detritus, but also a slim measure of fun.

Some people say that you become more introspective when you have children. My opinion is that introspection comes when you protect your version of things, keep what's valuable to you very close. So in December 2015, I will turn my phone off and deal with this accretion, piece by piece.

 


Ellena Savage

Ellena Savage is the editor at The Lifted Brow, commissioning editor at Spook Magazine, and a graduate student in creative writing.

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Existing comments

Oh, how the poor of Burma could do with some of those clothes. Oh, how the poor in Australia could so with some blankets. That would have brought a real smile to your face seeing how others accepted your gifts/love
Phil | 04 December 2015


Wow! What can I say? 'Welcome to reality and maturity', 'You'll get over this bout of depression', 'Always look on the bright side', or perhaps just 'Thanks Ellena for a challenging read this morning'!
Ellen O'Brien | 04 December 2015


Blast! You pricked my conscience, Ellena, but I shall still take my bundle of clean used clothes to put them in the Vinnies bin.
Uncle Pat | 04 December 2015


And who said existentialism is passé?
Ian Fraser | 04 December 2015


la vie n'a pas de sens ? joyeux Noël :)
Barry G | 04 December 2015


If, in the metaphor for your time, you saw in what was mostly gloomy a slim measure of fun, is it because every cloud has a sliver of a lining?
Roy Chen Yee | 07 December 2015


Your brother is right (about recycling). And so is Phil.
HH | 11 December 2015


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