Sometimes change is as good as a rest. Sometimes change is a rest, even if you’re getting up at 6AM every day to complete an active itinerary in stifling humidity, with your only hope of a good night’s sleep at the end whatever quantity of Nicaraguan rum can overpower the jet lag.
I recently had the privilege of putting this theory to the test. Over 14 all-too-brief days I roamed with a motley crew through more than 1,000miles of Costa Rican countryside. Veering from mountainous volcanic regions to the Caribbean and then Pacific coasts, it’s the first time in some time that the laptop has been left at my desk, and data roaming was so prohibitively expensive the very thought of refreshing my inbox on the go brought on the kind of panic usually associated with DMT.
Boring you with the details would be arrogant and folly, but let’s just say the country is spectacularly beautiful. From watching tear-inducing sunsets over a seemingly endless jungle wilderness, to strolling through shady national parks boasting 20% of the world’s entire plant diversity, the photo opportunities were relentless. As was the rain on the evening of day two, during which my camera took in so much moisture it stopped working. Fear not, though, the device sprang to life after I got home. Which is fine.
There are more facts about Costa Rica worth noting, too. The absence of an army is unusual for any region of the world, but particularly one where the majority of countries are locked in brutal guerrilla wars with cartels. School education is also compulsory. Literacy is almost 95%. The UN ranks the universal health system within the top 20 worldwide. It has a progressive attitude towards gay rights. Green-speaking, the figures are enviable, with 25% of the country’s total area made up of protected land and marine reserves, and hopes for 100% renewable energy sources by 2020.
It sounds a bit like paradise. There were times it definitely felt like that. But for someone who avidly follows current affairs, and writes daily, the absence of content was jarring at first. What new socio-economic or moral tragedies could have befallen the United Kingdom in my absence?
WAS EVERYTHING OK BACK THERE? WAS BACK THERE STILL THERE?
In the last 15 months, I’ve woken bleary-eyed in a remote Danish village to learn of the Conservative Party general election victory, and, after landing at a French airport, quickly realised I should definitely have exchanged currency prior to the morning’s Referendum result coming in. Neither were expected. Neither were welcomed by yours truly. This list could go on much longer, so you can understand my concern.
A few days into the trip, though, that absence of news was amazing- a truth so horrifically selfish it came served with guilt garnish. How dare I not read about genital mutilation, genocide, political sin, and the inevitable doom we face as a race? Had I become that ignorant? After all, this was just another morning- full of worthy nightmares to worry about- the only difference being I wasn’t in sunny Manchester.
Feeling as though a weight had been lifted and shamefully handed over to some other poor wretch, whilst Eureka moments in this newfound clarity evaded me, the break from information offered time to reflect. Perhaps I would have another beer. Some more of those plantain chips sound ideal. Maybe Adam Curtis is absolutely spot on.
If you’ve never seen his movie, Bitter Lake, then I can’t recommend enough. Concerned with the West’s destructive role on the world stage, using Afghanistan’s modern history to frame its argument, the documentary presents an interesting theory relevant to my epiphany. That theory is dubbed ‘Oh dear’-ism. Overly-simplified, it goes like this: the powers that be now use the press to disseminate a whirlwind of negativity, fear and pessimism. This causes we the people no end of difficulty in figuring out what to do about everything, and which causes to focus on.
We respond with a defeatist ‘Oh dear’. We are left perpetually confused and hopeless.
As such the fundamental question becomes ‘how likely are we to form a strong, united front if we only see a mess, and mass, of problems we believe are disparate, and almost beyond solving?’ Everything from God to the charity and development sectors has been discredited, so what legitimacy remains? The butterfly effect suggests every action has an opposite reaction, which surely means good gestures carry damaging counterweights. By knowing this we are doomed to lives as skeptics, leaving little hope for faith in any justness, because even that probably has links to injustice.
So then, what’s our solution?