Zürich Writers Resist 2018: Clare O’Dea speaks

Clare O’Dea

This gathering is badly needed. It’s like a self-help meeting for people suffering from an acute social conscience.

And suffering is the word. What we’re going through is not easy. Life may be beautiful, but the world is very disappointing. We are currently experiencing levels of economic inequality not seen since Victorian times. Meanwhile, we have lit the fuse to destroy our own planet.

Is it any wonder I live in a constant state of concern and alarm? You name it, I am concerned about it.

I am concerned that we have entered Decade Zero of the CLIMATE CRISIS; we either change now or we lose our chance. I am concerned about the flights I take, the cars I drive, about the cobalt in the phone I use.

I am concerned about the refugee families shivering in camps in Greece and elsewhere this winter, this night.

I am concerned about the young people drowning in the Mediterranean, about the poverty and violence they’ve already endured in their short lives.

I am concerned about the shoot-to-kill mania of some American police officers that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. I am concerned about falsely imprisoned journalists in Turkey and the persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

I am concerned about Palestinian kids growing up knowing nothing but bitterness and oppression, about traumatised Rohingya children without a future.

I am concerned about the scapegoating of immigrants everywhere, about black sheep on posters, and white supremacy in all its ugly forms.

But what use is this concern? It is choking. It is debilitating. It feeds a bright futile flame that burns no-one but me. I hate to tell you folks, but I do not feel on the winning side of anything right now with all my precious concern.

And I know you feel it too, or you wouldn’t be here. You feel that concern, you live with it, you know its crushing weight.

And now imagine if you did not feel that. Imagine the liberation of not giving a damn. Of hearing about the problems but shutting it all out. All that matters is your own personal gratification, at most securing special privileges for your own tribe.

These people used to live either under a stone or up in the penthouse where you could never see them. And now the most grotesque of their number is in the most prominent leadership role on earth. They are out from under the stone, they are free to do what they like, they are dangerous but they cannot prevail. There is too much at stake.

It’s up to us to make them feel the heat of our flame even if we don’t have a chance of a fair fight.

I want to be hopeful. I want to see this sorrow transformed into meaningful action. The concerns won’t go away. The self-help part is about us managing or curating them effectively, about concentrating our individual energy, joining forces and picking our battles.

If ever there was a time to resist, the time is now.

Thank you for listening.


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Author: J.J. Marsh

Writer of The Beatrice Stubbs series, founder member of Triskele Books, columnist for Words with JAM magazine, co-curator of The Woolf magazine, Bookmuse reviewer, blogger and Tweeter. @JJMarsh1

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