As terrorist carnage occurs daily across the world, the common response from people is, “I am exhausted.” The statement sums up the feelings of so many people across the globe as terrorism, the war on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, Syria’s civil war, multiple and trans-generational wars in Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan and Somalia have managed to reach deep into every person’s consciousness and permanently scar it. “I am exhausted” is the direct outcome of a world that has become accustomed to witnessing a daily account of carnage that at times and in some corners of the world is reported in hundreds of lives lost or maimed. How to understand this exhaustion? Is the exhaustion a precursor to a global movement directed at a new and possibly different political order, or a resignation and acceptance of the violent norms?
The news cycle is dominated by death and mayhem with no end in sight. The regular person is feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with the sequence of events and the inability to take respite for even a few hours. Even when there are no reports of terrorist or violent events, the debates and discussions on the airwaves continue to be dominated by a violent rhetoric and a replay of previous events that force everyone to relive the past anew. What has become clear is that the ability to process the ongoing events has reached a limit and exhaustion is visible in people’s reactions.
Exhaustion is a natural feeling once we consider the intensity of violent events underway over the past 20-odd years that have over-taxed the sensibilities of people. These exhausting events include wars in the countries mentioned above, devastation of biblical proportions in Syria, Afghanistan and Gaza, as well as the never-ending stream of terrorist attacks. Equally disturbing are war-on-terrorism violent initiatives and drone attacks that cause massive civilian deaths.
The nature of our daily lives has been transformed into a never-ending media loop of violence and we all have become accustomed to bloody events puncturing the otherwise increasingly un-normal peaceful days. Adding to this exhaustion is the entertainment industry joining the parade of violence with a non-stop production of bloody movies and TV dramas that reproduce reality as if it needs to be reinforced in our collective consciousness. The lines are blurred between reality and made-for-Hollywood production since one feeds the other.
Consequently, “I am exhausted” can produce a need to disconnect and distance oneself from all the realities that are piercing the soul. Taking a break and disconnecting is important and can produce positive outcomes if done correctly. We take it for granted that the world is connected in ways that otherwise were unimaginable a mere 30 years ago. Violent events and occurrences in distant places become a local news item that are covered around the clock thus making it our own despite it being in a far-away place. In the past, we would read about an event in distant places months after its occurrence and get a very limited exposure to images from the field. Possibly, the Vietnam War was the first such coverage where the local and international merged to an extent that it became part of the daily norm for people to see the images and get a heavy dosage of the violent nature of the war.
On another level, “I am exhausted” can indicate a sense of luxury that points to the ability to separate oneself from the broader violent events underway in distant places or around the corner from the increasingly protected gated communities . Could the exhaustion be thought of from the point of view of an Iraqi, Syrian, Afghan, Palestinian or African Americans and numerous others who are born into a permanent state of exhaustion and birth certificates written in blood? Here, and as a result of terrorism, we have a major dilemma where violence has become normalized and experienced by all in places near and far. “I am exhausted” is an all-encompassing statement that impacts everyone but certainly to differing degrees.
In the middle of the exhaustion, could a coalescence across borders and regions be formed that could produce a new set of innovative solutions to the current catastrophic human condition? We are witnessing some movements in that direction as people from diverse religious, cultural, ethnic and political divides are building bridges and responding with empathy toward one another during and in the aftermath of the crisis. We can see the response in young people using all types of social media and creativity to counter racism, stereotyping and collective blame directed at Muslims in Europe and the U.S.
Critically, people are exhausted from dead-end politics that repackages the same old policies that produce the violence and counter violence we are witnessing. In the midst of all the darkness, we might be witnessing the birth of a new global era that can transform the world into a new stage of cooperation and peaceful co-existence. While it is difficult to see this considering the difficult realities confronting the world, the birth of a future horizon always comes in the darkest of moments. What is needed from all those concerned with the world is to be exhausted from the lack of action directed at healing the wounds of the world, comforting the injured, feeding the hungry and rebuilding the broken lives. I am hoping and calling for a day where we will be exhausted because of all the good deeds undertaken to carry each other into higher grounds. “I am exhausted” should become the human condition after building and preparing for the birth of a new horizon.