my eyesight is failing

Waiting in Quibala © Lara Pawson

The tendency to travel from here to there has become an almost universal desire. Often, it is as simple as wanting to feel heat on skin and to escape the dark. But travelling can be exploited for kudos among the many who believe that there is something so powerful it might be a kind of magic out there by the brightness at the equator. The fear of that, the fear of the ignorance you know you have not shed, actually lends to the imagination of otherness. If we could take all the imaginings the ignorant have had – and are having right now – about, say, Congo, and write it down and photograph it and abstract it away from that huge central African state, there would be a fantastically brilliant fiction sitting waiting to be read at the other side. And it would have been created by people who have never stepped anywhere near the place. There is, in all that horribleness of othering and racism and fear, something incredibly beautiful and exciting. Out of almost complete ignorance are born infinite valleys of complex imagery. It is tempting to lie and to abuse this, to sit on these imaginings and nurture them, to fertilise the ignorance further in order to insist on your ability to have survived. There would be no resistance to this tale telling because you are only feeding back into the loop what it thinks it already knows.

The truth is often quite plain. The links and similarities between here and there are so much greater than the gaps we tend to imagine and insist upon. To insist that people in far away lands treat a life-threatening disease like malaria a little like we do the common cold, there will be resistance. No one wants to accept that their own life is a lot less complex and a lot less difficult than their growing narrative would insist. The television culture has created in us a constant need for drama about fuck-knows nothing at all. The distortions we manage to stretch out from the plain dullness of ease is a marker of our imaginations. It is why we are able to indulge in so much fiction because the imagination is just about all we have left. Which explains why, perhaps, if you really have lived in other places where death is common and food is appreciated and water is often dirty, you are supposed to keep quiet about it. Because it upsets the drama of the lives we live here. The insistence on difficulty that exists here, as opposed to the insistence on survival and hope that is so prevalent there.

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