Contrasts

Dancing with DeleThis time last week, I was dancing barefoot on a boat in Croatia with afrobeat legend Dele Sosimi. I had accidentally booked us onto two back-to-back Soundwave boat parties that day and I have to admit that I was slightly weary that morning (after not a lot of sleep) at the thought of having to spend six hours partying on a boat in the blazing sunshine. I am getting too old for this, I thought. Maybe I can grab a seat in the shade and have a snooze. I was, of course, much aware of the absurdity of complaining about spending six hours partying on a boat – such a hard life, I bet you are welling up a bit just reading about it.

In any case my tiredness soon dissipated as Riot Jazz started playing on the first trip – there can’t be many better antidotes for grumpiness than having a brass band play to you on a boat. The second party was even better, despite the fact that Dele Sosimi and his band didn’t actually play (it would have been challenging to find space, and amplification, for his entire Afrobeat Orchestra to be fair). It turned out that a boat party with Dele Sosimi was, in fact, exactly that: a party, on a boat, with Dele Sosimi. And he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as everyone else.

What was already a brilliant day at Soundwave culminated that evening in Dele’s incredible set – if he ever plays in your town, be sure to go. If you don’t enjoy it, I will personally refund you your ticket. (I won’t ever speak to you again though, you joyless philistine.)

Those days in Croatia were incredibly special, from beginning to end (even though headliners Fat Freddy’s Drop were rained off). Dele Sosimi deserves a special mention for his part in that, for dancing with me on the boat, playing an amazing set on Sunday night and livening up the 6am coach journey back to the airport on Tuesday morning by chatting to us and generally emitting lots of positive energy. Thank you Dele, you are a true legend.

When I’m on holiday, I rarely watch the news or read papers – and I usually switch mobile data off on my phone so I can enjoy a few rare days off from my relentless compulsion to check Facebook and Instagram every two minutes. It is blissful, but it does mean that your post-holiday come-down is rather intensified by the realisation of what has been going on in the world whilst you were worrying about having to go on two boat parties in one day.

First came the news of the MH17 disaster – a senseless tragedy that it’s hard to find appropriate words for. Two further airplane crashes have since taken place, although the MH17 crash is set apart by the staggering fact that the plane was shot down. In any case, friends and family of the 450 people airplane passengers who lost their lives over the last week are left to come to terms with their loss. A picture of children’s toys scattered at the MH17 crash site in the Ukrainian cornfields keeps haunting me.

And then there is Gaza, where violence escalated to unbelievable proportions whilst I was eating grilled squid, drinking cheap Croatian beer and dancing. I am acutely aware of my own ignorance when it comes down to the complexities of foreign political conflicts, so I won’t embarrass myself by offering any type of analysis of the situation. Mine is a response that I am sure many of you share: a deep emotional sense of wrongness, helplessness and guilt. Guilt because of the sheer contrast between my life and that of the beleaguered Palestinians who are unable to protect their own children from relentless and seemingly indiscriminate Israeli bombings (please take three minutes to watch this emotional account from Channel 4’s Jon Snow, it is heart-breaking). Helplessness because I don’t know what to do about it, beyond signing petitions and making donations.

There isn’t even a real point I am trying to make here, other than that I am very lucky to have the kind of life where I can spend five days in Croatia partying in the sun, and six months off work to try and ‘find myself’. I am #firstworldproblems personified. A few weeks ago a lady from South Africa commented on my blog to say she admired me for what I was doing but felt some unease at the basic fact of my self-imposed unemployment when so many around her were struggling due to their inability to find work, sometimes for generation upon generation. She is right, of course – my endeavour is a selfish one, only made possible because I am lucky enough to have been born in a tiny corner of the world where prosperity is the norm, into a family that was able to provide me with all I needed and give me a privileged head start in life.

So here I am continuing with my little privileged life, buying tickets for Soundwave 2015 and looking ahead to the last episode of my career break which will finally see me starting with the wonderful Blast Theory next week. I feel very grateful for what I have, and I do want to end this post on a positive note as I’m starting to feel a bit gloomy. It is helpful to put your own life into perspective sometimes, and I will try to remember that the next time I am moaning about something small and insignificant.

 

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5 thoughts on “Contrasts

  1. I had a similar experience last week in Tuscany. Since I left my job, I hadn’t read the news once – I was bizarrely proud of this fact, viewing it as a symbol of freedom from corporate life rather than the ignorance it actually was. When I met up with my Dutch friends in Florence, they were completely bereaved and devastated by the crash, following every newly released report and waiting for some action from their government, and it made me feel ashamed for my ignorance and grateful for the life and privilege I have (a feeling that was cemented after watching Uprising: Hip-Hop and the LA Riots). I have vowed to start reading the news, if not daily, then every Sunday. These words – “It is helpful to put your own life into perspective sometimes, and I will try to remember that the next time I am moaning about something small and insignificant.” – represented my own state of mind upon returning home, reminding me to practice an attitude of gratitude.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Kaiti, I know exactly what you mean – it is lovely to feel free of all the misery in the world sometimes and perhaps it’s no bad things to have ‘cut-off’ periods once in a while, but I’ve always felt a little alienated too if I haven’t been able to keep up to date with things. Hearing the news every day does make me realise a lot more what a charmed life I have, really. I’ll check out the documentary you mention, it sounds interesting! All the best in your post-corporate life 🙂

  2. I think your feelings about these events are shared by many people across the world … both are examples of man’s inhumanity to one another, which apart from brief lulls now & again, seem pretty much continuous over (at least) the last 200 years. Which is not to say we should do nothing about events either. I might be naive but I have to wonder if the situation in Gaza would be happening as it is, if the two peoples involved had been truly encouraged to sort it out between themselves, with no armaments traded …
    It’s also true, that Europeans & North Americans have a very privileged life compared to many parts of the world. The fact that global and national inequality has got much worse rather than better in my lifetime has been both a surprise and a huge disappointment to me. Should I feel personally guilty about that (given how much influence I have over global capitalism)? Only if I go through life without doing anything about it. We live in the same cynical system that humans seem to have always had, whereby money attracts more money, and what’s out of sight is out of mind – though it was suggested we think differently in the ’70s and ’80s. If someone is working they have the option to correct this on a personal level even if the world economy and the government doesn’t give a damn. We all have the option to transfer some of our surplus wealth in a sensible way to people that need it (instead of buying some piece of consumerist junk). If someone is not working, I don’t personally feel that’s something to be guilty about in itself: it’s not necessarily virtuous to be working if all you are doing is serving yourself and giving nothing back to society and the world.

    • Thanks for your thoughts David, and sorry for the late reply. I am also disappointed by social trends closer to home, as well as international conflicts escalating and causing such humanitarian disasters. It’s also true that work in itself is not necessarily virtuous. I still have access to more surplus wealth than a lot of people ever dream of, and I do give some of it to charity of course. That’s partly a way to assuage my Western guilt, and I’m not sure how big an impact it really has. I have to admit I am guilty of the general epidemic of apathy that seems to have descended on us since the late 1990s and early 2000s – I don’t participate in protests and demonstrations – beyond the online petitions which offer one-click conscience easing before they sink back into the white noise of social media news feeds – because of a defeatist view that they won’t make a lot of difference. Maybe I should revise that view and try to become less cynical – if everyone did, maybe it would make a difference.

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