Engagement and Escapism

Over the past few weeks, I have been asked if I wanted to ride a camel (YES!), play Pokemón Go (No), drink mead with Vikings (duh, Yes), go to Burning Man (No), and if I’m going to seek refugee status when *not if, when* Trump gets elected (ummm…)

Pretty much every morning I wake up wondering what terrible thing happened in the world while I slept. It’s a crap thought to have- made worse that I usually haven’t even had coffee before it snakes its way into my brain. Unfortunately, because of the field I’m in, and the company I keep, and my eternal attempts to be a ~Good Human~, I am compelled to seek out and am constantly bombarded by the awful. And right now- there is plenty of awful to hear about.
We have the continuing worldwide refugee crisis, a re-emergent war in South Sudan, terrorist attacks across the globe, Brexit, police brutality and violent attacks against police, xenophobia and racism and fear Fear FEAR. Everywhere, everyone is afraid.

And the question I have is one I stole from Eula Biss, an author I deeply admire, and that is: “What will we do with our fear?”

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Stencil for Eula Biss appearance at Duke University

We scream and cry, or march and protest, gather for planning sessions, we post our opinions online and blast those we don’t agree with and engage in in-fighting with others of the same mindset, point fingers and complain… and eventually it all gets to be too much, This cacophony of outrage and action is altogether too much. We grow weary of real life.
So, we run from it.

We find solace in cute animal gifs, bury our heads in video games, binge on Netflix, hate-read tabloid articles about the love lives and dramas of stars we don’t know or care about. It’s easy. It takes us out of ourselves and this world we live in where the theatre of tragedy is forced on us 24-hours a day.

The time is ripe for Pokemon Go, and Medieval Faires and Live Action Role Playing in the park. It may not be for everyone- some even scoff at these flights of fancy- but it makes complete sense. We may feel powerless against the tide of international conflict, but we can do our damndest to “catch ‘em all.”

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Knights at the Abbey Medieval Faire

I don’t play Pokemon, and I don’t dress up in a wimple and cotehardie. I don’t *often* watch cat videos, pay attention to who celebrities are “on the outs” with, or watch thinly veiled soap operas (okay.. except those two.. but we’re off-season right now). I read books and write, look at lowbrow/outsider artists on Instagram and listen to comedy podcasts. I also rode a camel. There is value in all of these things. Everyone deserves to check-out sometimes.

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Me and O… on a camel!!!

I’m getting ready for my second semester in grad school at UQ for Peace & Conflict Studies, which is actually my fifth semester- if you count my credits at UNC-G in the States- and there were years of work and activism before that. Extended time deep in action and intellectualism on the sticky subject of “peace” (whatever THAT means) will have an impact.
Some burn out and quit- go corporate, others dig in harder- really relishing their roles as jaded and bitter foot soldiers “for the cause.” Most are somewhere in the middle- eternally seeking the balance of emotional wellness and dedication to the work. It requires a sense of humour and willingness to do those things that help you check-out when you need it.

Through this journey I have met the most amazing, inspiring, sick & twisted people I know. People who can cite United Nations Security Council resolutions from memory and two seconds later make a most cringe-worthy gallows humour remark; curse like a sailor in the back room before going out to give an inspired speech on the state of gender relations in sub-Saharan Africa; work with young children on social justice and post-conflict resiliency and then go thrifting for additions to their creepy clown collection. Okay, that last one was me, but you get my drift.

The field requires a duality. Humanitarians and peace makers, activists and advocates, social and civil rights warriors are- at the end of the day- human, too. So, if you see us wandering around town catching Pokemon instead of “fighting the good fight” sometimes, know that we need that. If there is a social media blackout, it doesn’t mean that we’re not paying attention, it means that we need to decompress. It’s all too much sometimes.

And, all of us- every single one- needs to look at photos of cute animals sometimes to remind us that there is still good in the world.

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Just a wombat, chillin’ in the Winter sun
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