Friends and foes, Please gather, Sit together and speak thy truth. Perhaps we can settle the swords and the jabs, Perhaps …
“Sure!” spoke Innocence, beautiful, suave creature, From the depths of naïve knowledge, she said: “We can reach togetherness, After all, we are in this together….”
“Really?” says the Skepticism “It seems that you glide through time learning nothing! Innocence, you’re just beautiful passing beauty….”
“Passing? No!”, says Innocence, “I’m always here, for without me how would you love? How would you hate?”
“Love? Hate?” says Rationality “After I made a considerable number of records over a long period of time, I consider that…. It’s all a pile of whims!”
“Maybe,” says the Idealism “But the man should always create another illusion, I am not ready to give up on dreams!”
“I am surprised you’re still here, Idealism! In an official universe, Where relationships, careers, life…. is predetermined, How have you not succumbed To day-by-day unhappiness inertia?” asked Rationality.
“Silence! All kneel! Surrender!” shouted someone from behind, “Accept my yoke and we will be saved!” It was Knowledge, demanding to be queen.
They all fell silent, Innocence became guilty, Rationality started to bow, Idealism became aggressive, Knowledge……did not become queen.
I kneel Conjuring ancient thinkers To ask a simple question: is death forever?
People who played their parts, Figures of finest wisdom, Begin seating themselves on the floor opposing to me.
The sound of a suspicious silence Fills the room, The consciousness of being both, The living and the phantoms of this world, Sends joint, mysterious and significant, Explanations of the meaning of life.
The room is bright, Serviceable candles are steady, They’re lit by poets….
I can’t pretend not to feel what I feel, My wings that grew between storms Spread wide to carry me once more Towards another day, towards another night.
For some time, I have been thinking about some fundamental questions, such as the one of how did our societies became so polarized? Why are people so polarized when it comes to race, religion, why are people so polarized in general? I know that there are many reasons why, but I have recently come across a story that reveals disturbing facts.
I was listening to a New York Times podcast, that talked about the radicalization of a young man through YouTube videos. This was an aimless young man, in his 20s, who had a computer and spent a lot of time on YouTube. He became attracted by a far-right community, because he felt a sense of belonging. Besides the podcast, there is also an article in NYTimes about it. Here is the link for it if you want to read more about his story:
What struck me in this story was the evidence provided by a former YouTube employee, a French PhD, that explained how YouTube feeds you what to watch next….and next…and next. YouTube has an algorithm that controls what you can choose to watch next and based on your preferences (your history of watched videos) would suggest the same kind of videos. They say that this algorithm is responsible for 70% of the time spent online.
Now, not only YouTube, but many other platforms offer access to conspiracy theorists, extremists and all kinds of misinformation. Although YouTube and other platforms are outwardly liberal, they are still a place where all kinds of people that are arguing whatever they may, have reached large audiences.
What if you fall into one of those rabbit holes? I think it is an efficient method of brainwashing.
For YouTube and media alike, their business measures in time watched and in ratings. They would give you the same kind of material, because they assume that you like it and that you would keep roped for long by giving you information on the same subject, from the same kind of sources. For them, it’s all business. The more you watch, the more time you spend on their platforms, the more money they make. They’re not interested in providing a user with alternative narratives, with alternative points of view. For them, is not about the quality of information. It is all business.
But is it all business for people? No. Not so much. For us, real human beings, it’s our lives. We possess an incredible neuronal plasticity that allows us to be shaped by our experiences.
There are a lot of people out there, especially during this pandemic, who do not have wide social contacts and spend their time navigating the internet. If you involuntarily hammer your brain with the same, the same, you might not even realize that you are being misinformed, or that you start believing in who know what conspiracy theories.
I think the best we can do is at least be mindful of this possibility. Be more aware and judge through your own lens whatever information we are fed. I think it is important to stop taking the information we are fed at face value.
And, on another note, I have previously written a small article about how media controls the narratives. This is not new, in fact, media has been called the “fourth estate” because of its wide influence and its weight in steering one way or another the public affairs. Remember the Vietnam War and the photos of casualties and soldiers wounded? Did we see the same thing during the Iraq war and Persian Gulf conflict in the 90s and 2000s? No. We didn’t. Why? I’ll let you think for yourself and answer that question…..
The media controls what we see and hear. The media decides what we should hear and see. A lot of things that should be said have been effectively silenced.
I personally am trying hard not to be dumbed down by corporate biased news. It is hard. But I do seek information on things that are important to me and that are not talked in the media the way they should be because of low ratings ( i.e. climate crisis, community issues). I do seek alternative views on everything that I read and I do not believe everything is out there.
I have written this poem for Visual Verse Anthology of Art and Words, it is published on page 24, you can read their current issue if you click here: Visual Verse Anthology of Art and Words. The poem is based on the picture above and represents what I saw when I looked at it.
The antithesis of obliviousness By Andrada Costoiu
Peeking through the gates of time and space, I seek escape from the place I am stuck. I do not belong to this sentimental ecosystem of hollow chests, With people that smile to convince their bodies that are happy.
In the place where no one cares, I water the tree of love, Pluck its leaves and send them away To the ones who play the same game. We connect, If there is a wind, there is a way.
They say that romantics make the most unreliable spies, But this time I made it. The whole in the fence is the path, Not slow, but fast, I bid goodbye to the place that sings everyday happy birthday to the death of souls.
I feel like a citizen of Hades blinded by the sun. I stumble, The heart is a small muscle with a tremendous strength, It got me here, across the fence, back to the place where it all started.
I am an unbound soul smitten with the eternal light, I sync with the others, across the flying leaves, Maybe one day we’ll break the fences of all mundane places, And save the ones that shrug and fade into the dark.
Above the foxhole everything is fire Clouds are rolling, Stained by the rage of the man made world. His fingers are clenched on the wire, That sends a screaming order to move forward To all those destined to fill the infantrymen’ boots.
Steel helmet in the rain, He joins the game of hide and seek with bullets, And hopes to be among the winners, As there is no replay, The penalty of losing could take your soul away.
His team now takes the village, He stops behind a wall, then points his gun, The end and the tomorrow both dwelling by his finger, And what he’ll choose will be the faith of one.
Astounding insight into the human soul, Immersed in holiness and sin, The battle is about primal survival, And thus the man in front of him will lose, and he will win.
The bomb that fell flattened his world, And drew corridors of fire That led everywhere and nowhere, Toward a future that kept hanging.
The tearless silence was floating, Dressed with silk black cap, As faith was rewriting the lists For new havens.
His eyes were closed, but it was bright inside, He remembered the taste of chocolate And how he ran up and down the hills Over the desert.
He will soon hear the others, Crawling like him, on their canes of hope, Their skills got sharper every time.
He’ll join them in the quest for Their food for tomorrow: Wild mushrooms and rabbits. Sometimes they will go by the airfield, Wondering loud where the storks were, And why was their place taken by uniformed men.
He felt his body burning, Heard shouting, faint, then rising, He smelled his father pomade and felt the clutching of his arms. He was tired of running in a race that had no stopwatch, Besides he already won, Of all the things, this war has never been able to embargo his dreams.
This is a poem I have written few years ago. Like everything I write( like everything that we writers write), there is a story behind it. Back then I was doing field work in Jordan about war refugees, and I was spending time listening to Syrian war refugees recounting their stories. Some of them had their children around when I was taking their interview. I was struck, I knew war from far away but this was a first account, as close as I could get. I would finish the interviews, and then I’d go transcribe and I would feel these people, and their pain even more than I didn’t before. Their faces would come to mind. This poem is about one of those faces.
Image by John Samuel, Library of Congress (Source: JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post)
Shadows of souls carried by wings Embarked to paint visions of stories told and untold. A dozen missions have now been declared, In a quest to make the world safe.
A Bird’s eye view flight Carries the souls who take notes on symbolistic frontiers. They tap in sights from above Unsure yet hopeful That the “differences” they weave intense on their maps Will debunk old narratives and bring restauration of unity to the people.
A water wagon Carries the ones who feel the mist in their hearts. Between the ground down below And the clouds that swell, They’re on a quest to fertilize the seeds of existence. They tend to the youthfulness of flowers and to all other species, And in in synchronous voice, they glorify nature.
Some are in a quest to build a world without taxes, Because not everything is for sale. They fly to declare independence From all agencies that monetize the souls of human beings.
Two lovers and few others, Carry with them the rebirth of wonder. Their spirts, filled with light, Are a proof that the love in our hearts can never be muted.
Some souls are still stuck in the Age of Anxiety They’ve tried take flight, But they drop, pulled down by the weight of their fears. They too will be safe, As the others will not hit the ground, Until their stories are heard, Until the hope in a better, safer world is restored.