In the time of Shutters

There is outrage all around me. The fires have moved out of hearths to the streets. Some are cold, but one does not know which ones smoulder. Some may come alight anytime. Decades ago, when I was born,this week, it was the same. There were tensions along the border. I was born to the sound of geopolitical games and air raid sirens. That is the first sound I remember, the air raid siren that meant that the border had been crossed by enemy planes. It was a short war with the same neighbour we liked to call our younger brother. The brotherhood has since turned sour, the pretense that the accident of birth made us one is gone. We still wear the same clothes, and eat the same food. But the fences are barbed.

Nothing has changed, and yet we have lived through peace. It was peaceful when the riots were at the other end of town and restricted to the same week every year, corresponding with a religious festival. It was peace when a city reverted to the shameful character we thought we had left behind in the years of the partition. It was named peaceful when balkanisation became reality and medical forces served under religious symbols.

These were the years of peace as war, they said, turned cool and then cold. And then the embers were swept away under broken walls in Berlin and crushed under the wheels of perestroika. Sure, we believed it was peace. Knowing that nothing changes, we believed in what made us happy.

Some of us did not believe our belief, but was there any other way? Was there any other time but today? Peace is the present moment, it is never a promise. There was a train, and we waded through the gravy drums, picking what we could. Gorging on the promise that it would keep moving. The first sign of slowing down, we panicked. Started pulling up the fences. Peace was for good times. Peace was for us, not them. Peace was about the side of the door you were on. Good old times, before the peace had come, were back. Except it took some of us a while to roll down the shutters.

But if shutters are down, then what kind of rationed peace is this?

The fires are burning again. The masks have worn thin. The emperor, he has no clothes, but struts because the children who can call him out are being watched. The whistles have been put away by many, others are traded in secret. There are no safe houses any more, for trust is gone. This is not anarchy yet, because the shutters hold us safe. But greed, sloth and plenty have addled our minds. We know we want more, but few know what we want, or why we want it. And it is no longer safe to not have it.

Peace is personal now. Peace is purchased with plenty. This is the time of the grand grab. The biggest swipe buys the most time at the negotiating table. Just that, because no swipe is ever sustained. It is a play that seeks higher stakes each time. For now, it is enough to be at the table. The ones who fell off don’t bear thinking about, it would hurt too much.

If you have read so far, I thank you. It was abstruse. These were murmurs from the threshold, as I pass from one age to another. And note that the world around me does too. From youth and plenty to tighter belts and bigger locks. Because there is so little to protect that it needs more protection.

Where am I headed then? In search of the perfect hammock.

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