These are the words of my friend,
“I’ve been thinking too much about mortality lately, turning into a skeleton who’s been trying to simplify things so people get why life’s shit happens and why we need to view each other equally”
He sent them to me a month before he ended his own life. Inner-most thoughts that have crystallized in my mind’s eye because I evaded the darkness – I malignantly tip-toed around his reality; his truth; his fall. I selfishly presumed that his thoughts on mortality would fizzle out like the circular motion of a spinning top… but only light can drive out darkness.
A light – present within all of us – which emanates from Chen Si every time he patrols the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge during his free time, to look out for people contemplating suicide. People like Shi, whose life continues to be downtrodden by the exorbitant cost of his daughter’s leukemia treatments, burdening them with insurmountable debts… People who long for freedom.
Having learnt to see an ocean of dreams in a mere teardrop, Chen reaches out to these individuals with kindness and unabated love. Intent on listening with a clear mind; observing with empathic vigour; feeling with an open heart.
Chen Si has helped save over 228 people by being there for them, when no one else could.
Yet to echo the experiential sentiments of Chen Si, if the friends, relatives and even passing acquaintances of these people had courageously and intuitively intervened when they had begun to contemplate suicide, how could they have arrived at such vagrant desperation?
Perhaps if I’d engaged with my friend’s isolated feelings, he wouldn’t have felt so alone in this universe. I’m haunted by the reality of never knowing.
But how do we intuitively respond to an individual’s sorrow? How do we remove our fears and acquire a level of empathy, which is so far removed from our daily lives?
What we need is a global shift in consciousness. Beginning, with a new understanding of history – one that is shaped by us all – forged through an awareness of the interconnection between, for example, the savage genocide brought about through Columbus’ imperial voyage, and the subsequent Native American diaspora in places like Wichita Falls, Texas, where the Wichita Indians thrived in their natural symbiosis, before hubristic European settlers naively mocked their cultural traditions; systematically abused their women and girls; killed and disgraced their men and boys; coldly exploited their fruitful lands; and subsequently forced their future generations to assimilate warped Eurocentric ideals that will forevermore class Native Americans as an inferior people.
Consider why suicide is the leading cause of death for so many young adults in such a “developed” society.
Consider why there is this lingering sense of hopelessness and despair manifesting in such a “prosperous” society.
Our colonial history has inspired countless genocides, immortalized a superficial understanding of life, and paved the way for endless poverty in local and foreign lands – including those we now (proudly) refer to as “Indian reservations”. Lands that, when you strip away the veneer of conscientiousness, really entail environments harbouring wretched conditions like that of The Wind River reservation in central Wyoming.
Their history is relevant today precisely because our colonial legacy immortalizes white privilege – it enshrouds neoliberal principles at every turn.
This foundation is relevant today because my friend felt so isolated from our material existence, from a society that continually asserts we are the problem.
He internalized an egalitarian ideal from youth that was so inherently incompatible with this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, where empathy – reduced to the poor man’s cocaine – drained his abundant energy in a wildly dissonant existence.
A never-ending cyclone that strips away any remnants of humanity; in the midst of a polarized society, led by a ruthless hegemony, that surreptitiously atomizes individuality, while it protects and serves an increasingly nano-sized clique of corporate royalty pampered with excess privilege, in the eye of this engineered, counterclockwise storm that casts us aside like the obsolescent, mechanized entities.
We remain engulfed by media corporations who thrust fear upon us with the hyped threat of distant pandemonium, while they subdue us with recurrent notions of “civility” sprouting from “free trade”.
To quote Alain Badiou,
We may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we’re lucky that we don’t live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it’s better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it’s not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don’t make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don’t cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda.
Is it any wonder then, that the widening gulf between reality and myth produces such a sharp rise in mental distress?
Is it any wonder that countless independent studies confidently point to the correlation between mental health and the neoliberal mode of capitalism?
For far too long we have been driven towards a detached existence. Led from our interconnectedness along this path of prejudice, injustice and conflict.
So where do we go from here?
To see an ocean of dreams in a mere teardrop…
For my friend, equality dried up.
He left me this teardrop
But I’ll never restore an entire ocean alone.