By Caitlin Kelly
Do you know Joseph Conrad’s work,“Heart of Darkness”, published in 1902?
These are the dying words of Kurtz, a central character in the book, whom the narrator finds deep in the heart of Africa; the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now”, starring Marlon Brando as U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz echoes the book in its themes, setting and use of names.
The book and the film are dark, despairing, exhausting — and powerfully unforgettable.
But these two words are resonating in my head much of the time now, thanks to what often seems a global parade of incompetence, greed, conflict, misery and despair.
— The shelling/retaliation between Israel and Gaza
— The shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown (only the latest)
— The beheading of fellow freelance journalist James Foley by ISIS
— The New York Times reports that beheadings are now “routine” in Syria
— The nightly newscasts with images of yet another out-of-control wildfire consuming thousands of acres of Western U.S. forests and many people’s homes and businesses
There are risks to those who cover these stories, beyond the need to wear Kevlar body armor in Iraq or head-to-toe coverings when working around Ebola. There is also PTSD and secondary trauma for journalists and their editors and compassion fatigue for viewers and listeners.
I am also well aware — and would love some new re-definition of “news” to make misery less compelling somehow — that the mass media are utterly complicit here. By the time you, readers and and viewers, see and hear our/their versions of the world, they have been massaged, edited and sometimes bitterly debated.
As T.S. Eliot wrote, in Burnt Norton, in 1935: Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
The world is, obviously, filled with beauty and grace and joy, with people who get up every morning and give their best to those around them.
But, really, my dears, this wears me down.
Tune out? Become more politically active? Stop caring? Care more? Write a letter to the editor? Blog it? Blog it again…and again…and again…?
Write a check to a charity?
Rant to others on social media?
Or just…not care?
How about you? How do you respond — if at all — to the world’s madness and brutality?