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Mass destruction doesn't start with concentration camps or gas chambers. It doesn't start with putting marks on neighbours' doors, just because they are 'different' - or imposing law for minorities to carry particular signs or wear certain clothes. Discrimination always starts with words.
It starts with language.
We are made of stories - those that have happened, those that are still happening at this moment in time and those that are shaped purely in our imagination through words, images, dreams, and an endless sense of wonder about the world around us and how it works.
In losing our voice something inside us dies.
Do not be afraid of complexity.
Be afraid of people who promise an easy shortcut to simplicity.
We assume that we are alone are stumbling under their weight while everyone else is unencumbered, getting on with their lives just fine.
Emotions, we are taught to believe, make us look weak. The less we are capable of addressing negative emotions openly the longer it takes us to realise how many people are, in fact, struggling as we are, and how debilitating these silences are to our relations and interactions with others, and how, in an infinite numbers of indirect ways, they shape our societies.
My first instinct as a storyteller is to dig into 'the periphery' rather than 'the centre' and focus my attention on the marginalised, underserved, disenfranchised and censored voices.
There is a part of me that wants to understand, at any moment in time, where in a society the silent letters are hidden.
We have become bad listeners and even worse learners.
Nuanced debates are not welcomed anymore, but dualities are exarcebated.
People are more interested in making a point, than learning.
Knowledge requires reading. Books. Indepth analyses. Investigative journalism. Then there is wisdom, which connects the mind and the heart, activates emotional intelligence, expands empathy. For that we need stories and storytelling.
They limit wisdom that connects the mind and the heart, help us reach beyond our mind and engage with others around us.
We must become intellectual nomads that keep moving, keep learning, spend more times in the margins, with the minorities, where real change happens.
Feeling systematically unheard, unsupported and unappreciated can make me painfully resentful, and abiding resentment will probably turn me into a reluctant listener.
We dont' quite understand how the internet works but we don't want to say that aloud because everyone else seems to be ok with that, so we must accept it too.
More and more it feels that, when it comes to digital technologies, all the decisions are taken without us and despite us.
We are confused - but confused has now become a way of life.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Stories bring us together, untold stories keep us apart.
The moment we stop listening to diverse opinions is also when we stop learning. Because the truth is we don't learn much from sameness and monotony. We usually learn from differences.
We are exhausted by anxiety, consumed with anger, our minds and defences all too often overwhelmed.
Now we are universally aware that history can go backwards, that progress is beyond such concerns. Now we are universally aware that history can go backwards, that progress is neither guaranteed nor steady. Democracy is hard to achieve, yet easy to lose; it is an interconnected system of checks and balances, conflicts, compromises and dialogues.
We all need to be more engaged, more involved citizens in whatever we might happen to be in the world.
The truth is, there are plenty of negative sentiments all around and within us - anger, fear, discontent, distrust, sadness, suspicion, constant self-doubt... but perhaps more than anything, an ongoing apprehension.
An existential angst.
All these emotions are very much part of our lives now. Even digital spaces have become primarily emotional spaces.
And the biggest irony is that all this is happening at a time when we as humans - regardless of race, gender, religion, class or ethnicity - are supposed to be more connected and empathetic and free than ever before, with far more opportunities at our disposal to express ourselves than our grandparents could have dreamed of, given the proliferation of both digital and media platforms.
How is it possible then that in an era when social media was expected to give everyone an equal voice, so many continue to feel voiceless?
I'm a Deepstasher passionate about history, art and community projects.
Powerful words for a time when wars and pandemics create an existential angst that is difficult to coexist with. Shafaks's words nudge us to question our place and our attitude in this world.
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