What of those caught within the borders of unpublicised, unseen, unspoken battles for power, for control? What happens when people, due to values of faith, of fealty, of finance, find the summer sun eclipsed by exigencies of circumstance, of access, of politics, of the clash between a global concept of human rights, and a local wielding of power? Michele journeys within and without and takes a look at freedom and human rights, exclusively in Different Truths.
Wednesday (June 21) was the mid-year solstice — the longest day of the sun’s journey across northern hemisphere; the shortest, south of the equator. Here in Bishkek, green still creeps up the slopes of the closest mountains, while snow recedes to the tallest peaks, which gleam, in frozen splendor, all through the sunlit days and never-quite-dark nights. Now, the first day across the border of the astrological marker of the season, the sun continues down the long, gentle slide towards winter.
The day after the solstice doesn’t feel shorter. The summer-lit, cricket-song filled night seems no less enchanting in its fleeting embrace. The long days and gentle evenings promise an abundance of time to attend to the necessary, and still be able to enjoy the life we share on this planet—the local amenities of nature, of climate, of culture, wherever we find ourselves. It seems, when the long march of the sun brings light and warmth, plants grow prodigiously, and the food is plentiful, that we should be focused on building, on improving our lives.
It is tempting, in the midst of all this plenty, to be lulled into complacency, to be distracted by the varied tempos of summer’s celebrations and repose. It is easy to blend with the crowd, sated with the munificence of sunlit days and weeks.
We share the solstice, the slow, familiar orbits of our planet, the moon, the sun, and stars… the seasons, the climate, the weather. It costs us nothing to notice, to enjoy if we are able. We seek, though, to limit access to the skies, to water, to freedom, and, by extension, time itself. We fight over ownership of the earth; we resort to violence, crime, war for ownership, for power, for causes, religions, for fear, for hate. It is perhaps impossible to number the many centuries of solstices, the many millennia, the peoples of our planet have fought, feared, fled into corners, and across borders.
The lengthening days of summer encourage the displaced to think they might hold light enough to find safe harbor somewhere, before the long nights of winter set in again. The United Nations Secretary-General observed World Refugee Day on 20 June, noting:
“This is not about sharing a burden. It is about sharing a global responsibility, based not only on the broad idea of our common humanity but also on the very specific obligations of international law. The root problems are war and hatred, not people who flee; refugees are among the first victims of terrorism.”
But what of those caught within the borders of unpublicised, unseen, unspoken battles for power, for control? What happens when people, due to values of faith, of fealty, of finance, find the summer sun eclipsed by exigencies of circumstance, of access, of politics, of the clash between a global concept of human rights, and a local wielding of power?
What are the borders between coexisting, blending with a host society, and maintaining a sense of self? What are the boundaries between being a citizen of or visitor to a host-nation, and a citizen of the world? Where are the road-signs allowing safe navigation between the included and the excluded, between the uninformed and the unimpeded, between the expansive and the xenophobic?
Whether a local or a visitor, when you are hunted, targeted because of your talents, your aspirations, your values, your associations, where do you turn? Do you co-opt to blend, acceding, tacitly complicit, to the abrogations of rights for a few, when the “summer” of inclusion beckons so beguilingly?
There are no ‘home free’ spaces without contradictions, no carefree summer playgrounds where we, as humans in a global society, may be absolved of reinforcing oppressive structures. There are no days of summer, enticing, long, and languorous enough to excuse the absence of truth, of trust, of ethics. We must, in the summers of content, as in the ‘winters of discontent,’ be honest about what we are working, walking towards.
In the best of all possible worlds, a song is a song, not a political outcry. Musical and artistic talent, or the glaring lack thereof, know neither affiliation nor national boundary per se. A game of football is not a ‘diet of worms’ of religious or governmental focus; sports may be an avenue for healthy competition, for the camaraderie of the field, but athletes and coaches do not settle the affairs of state. A job is an employment, food on the table, hope for the future for those in the day-to-day grind for solvency and survival.
We may not all share the same talents, but we share the same spaces, and the responsibility for upholding those tenuous concepts of safety, security, and sustainable life within them. “We,” human, animal, insect, plant, from the smallest microbe to the largest expanse of clonal bio-organism, share this place, this seasons, these sunlit summer days.
So what happens, when friends are arrested ‘on suspicion,’ and dragged from the sunlight into the darkness of imprisonment? When conditions of incarceration, interrogation, of possible torture are hidden, when the self-assured condescension of the included — the politicians, the entrepreneurs, the power-wielders, and the complacent, wreaks its violence against the unseen, the unheard, the unprotected? How can the awareness of privilege and crisis, of visibility and dismissal, of a status quo of acceptance rather than transparency be reconciled?
The seasons mean little to the grinding wheels of commerce, the ceaseless turbines of information-flow, of government. Throughout history, the practice of throwing prisoners into dark places where life becomes one long, twilit, season-less misery has vied for horror with the penchant for stringing prisoners up without protection from the glare of the weathered skies, for all to see.
The halcyon days of summer mean little to those whose lives have been interrupted as collateral of the clash between scions of power. It is easier to hide the derelictions of human rights in the darkness of seclusion, apart from the eyes and voices of family, friends, advocates, or activists. And, yet, the seasons turn. Plants grow, compelled by the urgency of life, to produce in summer, to withstand the winter, to prepare for spring. Theirs is a calendar grounded in the eternities of the suns and planets.
Our human calendar is more ephemeral. Acquiescence to the well-cloaked tyrannies of power may be easier during the carnival days of summer when distractions are plenty, and hardships are few. But their burden is no less heavy; the impenetrability of the borders they impose between freedom and oppression no less dark.
The summer sun has little power to lighten circumstances such as these. And, soon enough, we will be well along the way towards fall.
Photos from the internet.
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