How I Learned to Fear The Bomb.
Honestly, it all feels wrong. Putin’s atrocity machine inches forward in Ukraine, butchering children and ripping lives to shreds. Under the shadow of that, promoting gigs, making announcements, and looking ahead to festival season doesn’t just feel vacuous and frivolous; it frankly feels insulting to be in this position. To have the privilege of feeling bad or sorry while Russia murders indiscriminately feels shameful. I know we have to carry on, otherwise what’s the point? But there have been times in the last week where it has all just felt completely meaningless trying to be in a band while the world convulses. I would like to expand on why in this blog and also try and offer some ways in which we can actually help the people of Ukraine rather than just expressing solidarity.
As Human Being I’ve never felt more insignificant, more powerless. Less like I matter. Putin achieves this by holding off any truly meaningful intervention from the West by brandishing the ever-present, incomprehensibly terrifying spectre of nuclear war. In the face of this nihilism everything ceases to have meaning. Up against total, utter annihilation the way I perceive my place in the world is turned inside out. The insignificance of my existence, my little life, my silly Punk band is brought sharply, devastatingly into focus. As such, even though we have to try, carrying on just feels empty when ‘no future’ is a very literal and very real, if for now distant, possibility. Way to make a humanitarian disaster all about you eh, Ben?
This week has been tough. Obviously, ‘tough’ in this instance is filtered through the prism of my western privilege, and as such I’m acutely aware of the relative mealy-mouthedness of what I’m saying here. However, it’s logical to feel hopeless. It’s logical to be scared. And to be honest, I’m terrified. This war, whether it physically touches your daily life or not, casts a shadow over everything. With the nuclear threat and all its awful variables, this is the closest I’ve felt to my own death, and the most explicitly I’ve had to think about it – or rather, it wrought by the hands of others – in my lifetime. That may speak volumes about the position of relative comfort I’m in. I don’t know. All I know is that in recent days I’ve spent most of my waking hours gripped by a terror more profound than I’ve ever felt.
My own death, however, is far from my primary concern. I think about nuclear bombs and think about what they mean. The all-encompassing vastness of their impact. The erasing of not just everything that is, but everything that has been and everything that ever will be. All Human history – all of history in general – wiped out in an act of unfathomable madness as if it never existed. All of us vaporised, shunted screaming into a Heavenless death. All of us. I think of nuclear bombs and I look at my son, in all his beauty and innocence, who has only ever known kindness and love, who only wants to laugh and hug and cuddle his Peter Rabbit comforter and rifle repeatedly through the pages of his Yellow Submarine book, fascinated by the colours. I think about him, my beautiful, perfect boy snuffed out at 18 months old by an evil he could never, ever comprehend. Like all of us, as if he had never been here. I think about my wife and the life we’ve built. Our little life, beautiful and delicate and rich with the love and memories of a decade of intertwinement. All of it dashed into the void with everything, literally everything, else. All of it smaller than a grain of sh** in the vast dumping of Human detritus into the abyss. How can all that matter so little when it’s all so gigantic to me? How can we be so powerless? How can all our lives, all that we are, all we have ever been, be rendered so small? The fact is it just can. It just can.
You see Putin’s troops on the ground, committing their pointless acts of barbarity, killing in the name of nothing. It shows you the true face of power and what that power can do. It can tie you up. It can batter your brain. It can blow a whole people to Hell for nothing, without physical retaliation from the rest of the world. It makes you want to scream and makes your screams silent. Impotent rage, like tar in the lungs. Putin has shown his disregard for life. He has shown his petulance. He has expressed his false sense of grievance and victimhood. What does he do if he fails? It’s hard to want to convince people how important your next gig is when all you can think about is the vast sword of Damocles hovering over all of us, when all you can see is brutality, when you’re compelled against your better interests to keep checking the rolling news because you need to know how likely it is that things will escalate to the point of no return, when the reality you’ve constructed is that, placed next to all this pain, you don’t matter.
Yet, I have to carry on. We have to carry on. There’s a catharsis in it, even though it’s hard to muster the energy to do so. Working on the band drives me forward, it gives me something positive to focus on. It allows me to express myself in myriad ways, not least in the blog you’re reading now. It allows me to forget, just for a moment, about the utter futility of life in the face of Armageddon. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe instead it helps me prioritise what is important in life. Maybe instead it gives me something beautiful to cling to, something that I control. Or maybe I’m just doing it out of a sense of obligation, because I’m telling you now over the last week there have been days I’ve been overcome by fear to the point of nearly fainting and I’ve had to force myself to just get on with it. What a coward, eh? Maybe, ultimately, it’s just part of the package of things I do to stop myself sinking into outright, unstoppable despair. I don’t know. My mood, and my perspective changes like the wind. Is it ok to feel this way when so many others are suffering so much more than I am? What is the right answer here?
I haven’t put a blog on the website for a long time. Mainly, to be honest, because I’ve been well busy being a Dah and loving every second of it. Incidentally, that’s also the reason I haven’t really been putting drawings and stuff up either. There hasn’t been time. There are 2 things that spurred me to write this blog and hopefully keep the blog going long-term. The first, and I like to think this isn’t my primary reason, is to combat the overwhelming sense of loneliness I feel about this situation. All the nuclear fear, all the crippling terror of watching each day’s events unfold. Am I overthinking all this? Am I being a drama queen? Am I being paranoid? Am I being overly doomy? Does anyone else feel as broken by all this as I do? If you do, I hope this perspective has given you some solace. Yeah, I’m aware I’m being bleak and self-indulgent but if it gives anyone a scrap of comfort knowing that they aren’t alone in this and aren’t absolutely mad then maybe I’m doing something good. I sometimes feel like I’m overreacting. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what reality even is. What is the correct reaction to something so hideous? Most people seem to be taking it in their stride. Am I wrong not to?
The second reason for writing this blog is to consider what we can practically do for the people of Ukraine. Factory Records co-founder Alan Erasmus has this week announced his intention to travel to Ukraine on a humanitarian aid mission in the hope that ‘maybe one person can make a difference’. This is a genuinely heroic act from a genuinely wonderful man. However, it is not something we can all do for various reasons. There are, though, plenty of things we can do. I’ve spoken about the sense of helplessness engendered by Putin’s nuclear arsenal. This, of course, is only relevant in a combat context. There is still plenty we can do as individuals from the UK. Below is a list of sources detailing ways we can help directly the Ukrainian people. From supporting charities on the ground to supporting local journalists to joining peace protests and contributing to clothing drives. Hopefully this gives you an idea of what action you can take.
Three Ways You Can Help the People of Ukraine, The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/mar/01/help-ukraine-uk-donate-red-cross
22 Meaningful Ways You Can Help Ukraine, Global Citizen: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/ways-to-help-ukraine-conflict/
Donate clothing, sanitary products via Polis Integration Support Centre’s #StandWithUkraine drive. See www.pisc.uk for more details.
Many areas have their own clothing donation drives. Search for drives in your area. Details of clothing drop off points in Greater Manchester at https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/how-people-greater-manchester-can-23248675
How to donate in the Ukraine Crisis, Vox: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22955885/donate-ukraine
There are many ways to help, these are just a handful. I hope this makes some difference, somewhere.
In all honesty, I don’t know how to end this. It feels sometimes like we’re standing on the precipice of something from which none of us can return. But that can’t be the case, can it? It can’t be the case that evil just wins outright, swallowing itself up in the process. Somehow, some way, Vladimir Putin and all his wicked enablers have to pay, don’t they? Somehow, kindness and love and good have to triumph, don’t they? I don’t know. War is Hell.