Thursday, November 19, 2015

Go Away

I’m just back after two weeks away. A holiday. A vacation. A luxury that has been years in the making and planning. Sure my contract provides for three weeks of time off per year, but as a workaholic I’ve never quite been able to justify take the time, despite the support of the team I work with. In the past 3 years I’ve turned back (“use it or lose it”) over 6 weeks of time. I’m not alone. 500 million vacation days lapse each year according to The Boston Globe. The hectic and stressful preparation for being away is matched by the whirlwind and obligations upon the return. The time in between is worth it, especially if you can ‘check-out.’ I did stay connected every few days as that’d probably be more stressful than not – but I was able to really get into a different way of being for a while. With that perspective it was amazing to come back and see what happened in the world with some fresh eyes.

The two weeks at the beginning of November is really a short period of time in the context of a year (4%), but it seemed much longer based on what happened while I was away. Trees went from a bountiful template of colors to largely bare. Pumpkins have been replaced by Christmas décor and holiday songs in every aisle. The psychological change that society makes into the holiday season is significant and it’s interesting to come off of a break into the holiday ‘rush.’

Politically there were a bunch of debates. Truly silly season. I agree with Edward Morrissey in TheWeek when he writes “Stop calling them 'debates.' They're game shows.” A couple of candidates for President dropped out.

There were some weather issues that dominated headlines and other things like earthquakes that momentarily held the spotlight. Being out of touch meant those came and went unnoticed even in a cursory review of what happened. Same with a whole series of attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other places where violence is the norm.

All of a sudden, though, my social media newsfeed started changing. It nearly instantaneously transformed to a sea of red-white-and-blue as the hundreds of connections I have simultaneously changed profile pictures to support France after the Friday the 13th bombings in Paris. It was an interesting phenomenon to experience this tragic event from the responses first, then seeking out what actually happened. The response felt so small compared to the event, but what else can people do?

I didn’t return and get back into a daily focus of world-events for many more days. By the time I was fully tuned back in there was a neat narrative surrounding the events. It was almost like reading a script or watching a TV show. (How many stars will you give it?) Evil ISIS hates everything the freedom loving world represents so they destroy it through terrorist attacks. Global outrage ensues and a plan to bomb the hell out of ISIS is agreed to by everybody. But it’s hard to do since ISIS isn’t actually centralized, so let’s “take out” some places we think they are instead. Boom! Oh, yes – let’s nail a suspect. The one guy who masterminded 8 simultaneous attacks. And let’s raid the place he was at months ago. Oops, we couldn’t find him ahead of time, but now we’ve found him in 12 hours! The message is clear: we need to be afraid of the terrorists but not so afraid because there’s “no credible” threats to be worried about.

There is no justification for the actions that happened in Paris. None whatsoever. But violence isn’t the answer. Violence begets violence. Is there nothing that history has taught us but that? The rhetoric is nauseating enough. But then there’s a whole series of emergency measures (in France, in England, in the US) to further curtail rights. One proposal attempts to punish those who criticize the Government in the U.K.  The goal is to empower the State to protect the People – something that has failed consistently.

Since September 11, 2001 the United States and most of the world have enacted massive amounts of legislation that has invaded privacy and taken about centuries of liberties that have been fought for. Phone calls are logged, emails are read, purchases are tracked. All in the name of safety and security. On Friday November 13, 2015 France’s 9/11 occurred. The tragedy is horrible. But it’s only the latest. 14 years later the restriction of freedom, the tracking of people and the invasion of privacy did not prevent this, the London attacks of 7/7 or so many others.

Let’s not keep doing the same thing. Let’s do what I did. Go away. The world needs a fresh perspective. Or maybe the terrorists could just go away. 

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