I am meant to be cleaning the toilets. The house is in dire straits. I should not be at all surprised if a hazmat team were to come rolling up the road to cordon us off at any moment. It turns out that writing a novel, keeping up two blogs, book reviewing, raising three children and not murdering the entire cast of The Kids from Acorn Antiques does not leave you much time or inclination for housework.
Not that I had much in the first place.
It was easy then to be distracted by this.
I read this article, written by Pete Paphides, a music journalist, about how he and his wife, journalist and author Caitlin Moran, have put out a single for the Syrian refugee crisis, with all proceeds going to Save the Children (who put 88p of every pound you donate into directly helping children by the way, in case you were cynically wondering). You should read the article. It’s good. It’s uplifting. It’s hopeful. I’m not particularly enamoured of charity singles. I was, after all, there in the dark days of the first Band Aid. I am however, in favour of anyone who gets off their arse and does something instead of constantly whining about how they can’t because things are too fucked up to even begin to try to make a difference.
I was particularly moved by this simple sentence:
Yes. What a beautiful word that is. I’ve heard the word “yes” so many times this week, when really it would have been so much easier for people to say “no”.
Yes. I thought. Absolutely this. It is such a simple and powerful thing, and saying yes can make all the difference in the world. I was really heartened by this article.
And then I read the comments, and I was utterly, utterly despairing. They read more like the comments I would expect to find in The Daily Fail if I’m honest. Bitter, twisted, bile filled crap that ranged through all the easy targets.
It’s not our job to do anything. It’s the government, the UN, their own government’s responsibility, you’re just muddying the waters.
I say: The government is made up of people, people like you, people you elected. The world is made up of people like you. What if everyone thought like you? Oh wait…lots of them do. Lots of them are in the government that you elected, and because they think like you and they want people like you to like them, they’re not doing any fucking thing either. Lots of them, these people like you, all waiting for someone else to do something, and then we get situations like this, where people die in their thousands. People like you. People who might very well one day be you unless you’re too stupid to have read history books and realise that those in power don’t stay there forever. Empires rise and fall. Ours is falling. Where do you think we’re going to fall to if we don’t help each other? Here’s a clue. It’s not fucking Narnia. Well done for perpetuating the ‘It’s more than my job’s worth’ thing. Very clever of you.
It’s not our kids/wives/husbands families. Who cares?
I say: So you won’t care then, when nobody helps you? Except you are exactly the sort of people who shout out when your benefit is cut, or when your taxes go up, or when you can’t get a hospital bed. Does anyone help you? If they do, it’s not because of government policy. It’s because of human kindness and activism. All the problems the UK has did not suddenly happen because of the refugee crisis. They were here before, and getting worse before, and getting worse because of our bankers, our politicians, our greed, and our refusal to hold our hands out to other human beings and say: ‘I will help you. I will say yes to you when other people have said no.’ The refugee crisis is a symbol of what happens when the things we are beginning to experience here get totally out of control because nobody will check it. Do you really think ignoring stuff is how you will change things? Things will change when YOU change, when those around you change, when everyone does their bit and stands up instead of turning their heads and pretending that they are better/different/immune to what is happening all around them.
Charity begins at home. Why aren’t you doing something for ex-servicemen who are on the streets, our starving children, our housing crisis, our failing government, austerity beaten country?
I say: Why aren’t you? It’s that simple. Do you vote? Do you get involved in your local community? Do you volunteer your time? Do you give up your spare room to people on the streets? Do you help out charities who support the issues you so passionately lambast others for not helping? Oh wait…maybe you’re the sort who talks about charity beginning at home but sits on your fat arse with your hand out, or tells me that you don’t have the time because you’re too busy taking little Johnny to violin practice, or you would but it upsets you, or it’s not your job. Maybe you’re the sort who turns a blind eye to the man begging outside the railway station and justifies it because he’s dirty and smelly and will probably spend what you give him on drink or drugs and you can’t possibly endorse that. I would like to bet the farm on the fact that the majority of people who rant about what needs doing at home, never lift a fucking finger for this country.
And before you ask. I do my bit. Here and abroad. I more than do my bit.
You’re just doing it for your five minutes in the celebrity sun. Jumping on the bandwagon. It’s all about you. You don’t really care.
I say: Because celebrity is the most valuable thing you can think of is it? You think someone would rather have fame than the feeling that they’re a better human being because they’ve tried to help someone? It says a lot more about your value system than it does about theirs.
Do you really think that paltry sum is going to make any difference to anyone? Better not to do it at all.
I say: Right, because knowing that you can vaccinate a child for about a tenner, or feed a hundred kids for about fifty quid doesn’t move you to understand that even the smallest amount can help? Knowing that if everyone chucked in even a quid you could raise thousands to keep people warm, safe, clothed, fed doesn’t compute at all. It’s not anyone else’s fault that your mathematical reasoning is as poorly honed as your empathy skills. Knowing what difference a tenner could make to you on a day when you can’t make ends meet doesn’t let you figure it out for the wider population. Well done you.
It’s all about you, and making yourself feel safe and comfortable and smug. Why aren’t you giving up your house, your job, your kids so that you can do something that really counts. You don’t get to comment because you haven’t suffered enough and your privilege precludes anything you’re doing from having any value.
I say: Firstly, why aren’t you? Then, who fucking cares what the motivation is? I don’t. The kid drowning so close to the shore of a country that could offer him a new life doesn’t. The woman running away from torture doesn’t. They just want to be helped. Why wouldn’t you? If you were running down the street of your home town, screaming and covered in blood, asking for help and everyone turned their back on you because they didn’t feel their motivation was pure enough, or they were worried that your situation would somehow rub off on them like it was contagious, you’d be the first person to ask what this country is coming to. I don’t care why people want to help. I care that people want to help at all.
Your opinion doesn’t count because you’re not poor, hungry, starving, a politician, the right demographic to make what you do and say count.
I say: That’s an easy way to let yourself off the hook then. Nice one. Nobody will ever twig on that the sound of those words ringing out is actually you saying. ‘This is actually my way of not ever having to stand up and be counted.’ This is you backing away from the problem with your hands in the air saying: ‘Not my fight, but when they come for the people like me, I’ll be all over it.’ Like fuck you will. Nothing is ever your fight is it?
You’re just responding to a picture of a dead child. Where were you when we needed you way back when? Too little, too late.
I say: Who wouldn’t? There has to be something wrong with you if you don’t respond to a picture of a dead child. It’s not a crime to see something like that and have finally had enough. I don’t care if you come back with ‘too little, too late.’ Nothing is ever too little, and it isn’t too late until it’s over, and it’s better to be too late than to never get off your arse to get there in the first place.
This nonsense, this miserable, shameful mess of what human beings have to offer in the face of anything positive made me feel physically sick. It still makes me feel physically sick.
I Tweeted. I got my words muddled. I ranted and raved. I could not stay silent.
Here’s what I say to you, any of you who feel this way. Any of you who try to shit all over what other people are doing when all they’re trying to do is help other human beings in whatever way they can.
What is enough? You always have an answer. This is not right. That isn’t right. It’s not enough. It’s not different. It’s not helping. It’s the wrong colour. The wrong shape. You can’t help because you don’t understand. You can’t help because you’re not the same as them. You can’t help because you’re fucking useless. You can’t help because it’s so broken there is no point trying to fix it, and what little you are doing is falling into a void. Nothing is ever good enough for you.
You know why? It’s because you are afraid to step up. It’s because you’re afraid to try. It’s because you’re afraid to do something different and not be part of the herd. I get that. I hear your fear. I understand it and if you want to live your life in a frenzy of fear and a hopeless inability to act, that’s fine, but do not use that as a justification to take shots at those people who are braver than you. Do not try to deflect attention from your own shame/greed/cowardice by pointing the finger at others.
You know what? You’re probably right. Nothing is ever good enough. A charity single isn’t going to solve the refugee crisis. The money I donated to Save the Children over the last week isn’t going to solve the refugee crisis. Nor is my letter to my MP or any of the things I have done and said. I never expected it would, but it is better to do something than nothing. It is better to hope for change and even better to act for change.
In the week since the picture of Aylan Kurdi hit the headlines, people have made changes and public opinion has made the government make changes. It has shown that if you put in your little bit, together you can make a lot. We’ve seen it. It happened. You can sneer all you like, but we have changed things, and it is not perfect, but it is better. It is certainly better than nothing. It is certainly better than the constant, mean minded snarking criticism from those of you who are too caught up in your own greed to think that there might be enough to share, whether it’s money, time or space.
And finally. They’re not different than you. They are you. They are you born into another skin, another family, another country. They are you, because they are human beings. Why not say yes to a little humanity?