See, Hear, Speak
One of my favorite comedians of all time is Bill Hicks. His worldview and commentary spoke to me in a way that has not been matched by any other. That doesn't mean he is completely without flaws. Take this clip:
It still makes me laugh, and I don't necessarily disagree with his point. Watching the news IS depressing...and I believe it's absolutely become inflammatory and sensationalized for the sake of ratings...but I take umbrage with the crickets. Absolutely if I go outside right now, sure, it's quiet...my neighbors are on their porch arguing AGAIN. (To be fair, they always seem civil and are just working through tough things.) I don't see war, famine, death or aids right outside my window...so, as the logic goes, how bad can it REALLY be? It strikes me as ironic that Bill would say something like this, considering he built his entire career on pointing out EXACTLY how bad it is out there. He rails against the evil side of politics, religion, and ignorance. While insisting we should all learn how to relax and love each other, every one of his shows is DEPRESSING as he reminds us that the good people in the world are murdered and the bad ones get away with treating the rest of us like garbage. The clip above is from his Relentless show in 1992. At the time, among other things, the Rwandan civil was happening (source), which culminated in the genocide of an estimated 50 to 100 thousand in 1994 (source). 1992-1993 was the literal peak of the aids epidemic (source). I could probably find more, I mean, a LOT happened that year: 1992. So it strikes me that it's easy for a straight white guy from Georgia to look outside and think to say "Seems real quiet to me." While, again, CLEARLY knowing it's not that quiet. I don't think his goal was to trivialize the horrors of the world, but I worry that too many people who watched this special or others will take away the convenient, easy message of "it's bad out there, but not for you."
What's my point? I was talking with someone the other day and I mentioned that I went to high-school in Aurora, Colorado and she asked: "So you were around for what happened in 2012?" If you're not aware, here's a quick refresher. Not ONLY was I around, but I was also across the street at an iHop the night it happened. I personally knew 3 people that were in that theatre and went to school with a dozen or so of the victims. This "crickets chirping outside your window" could only be closer to me if I myself was in that theater, which was damn close to happening. My sister and I discussed going to see the movie that we were both excited for, but decided to wait.
When I was telling my new friend about all this I made this point: in the face of all the bad things we see on the news I believe FAR too many people think "yeah, but it won't happen to me", I thought this too. It's probably true until it does. And even if it doesn't, to dismiss the suffering of others out of hand only raises the odds. If your reaction to tragedy and suffering is "not in my part of the world" problems get worse, the world shrinks gets darker and sooner or later it will affect you. It's been nearly 30 years since Bill Hicks made his observation. And in the wasteland of today's internet in the face of a global climate crisis, growing income inequality, continuing racism, and sexism, I see SO much apathy and dismissive attitudes. People who would watch the clip above and say "absolutely, it's not that bad for me, people just need to calm down". I don't think that's Bill's legacy, he was ANGRY at the injustices of the world. I think we should be too.
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