End of the Road

Useful things I learned while camping.

1- Kneeling on a tent peg shits all over stepping on a lego brick in terms of ouch value.

2- Putting your tent up in the garden pre-festival is ALWAYS a good idea, unless you want to provide the tent neighbours with two straight hours of comedy gold.

3- The poles on the back of portaloos are ingeniously engineered for those desperate moments where hovering is the only option. Trust me and try it next time- that little gem is a keeper!

4-Wearing the same clothes continuously for the whole weekend really doesn't make you smell as bad as you'd think. Or everyone else smells just as bad. Either way, win.

I spent the last few days camping at End of the Road music festival. It was incredible; the music was amazing, the company even better (big shout out Ben, Dave and Stew) and I lost count of how many pints I polished off. (Thanks again Ben, Dave and Stew, I think I owe you all at least seventeen drinks...)

But the name is apt- I arrived feeling a little at the end of the road myself. My days are punctuated by moments where I feel like I've hit my limit; losing my shit with a child in true fishwife style just within earshot of the general public; watching, recording and evaluating yet ANOTHER seizure, realising B has gone a little too far with the sensory-seeking gagging thrills and is covered in vomit, or considering exactly how much freedom of speech I give my six year old when she regularly rolls out embarrassingly acute observations in utterly inappropriate settings. These are the details of my cul-de-sac life. While this is a pretty personal perspective, there's also this lingering feeling on a wider scale; stuff that makes me question where exactly we are headed as a human race.

The images of a dead baby boy which hit our social media feeds and instead of gut-wrenching grief evoke crude, detached us-and-them debate. Standing in the safety of our homeland feeling content to pour judgment on those audacious enough to be born in the conflict zones we helped create. Opting out and buying in so easily to the media shitstorm surrounding refugees because it costs our conscience less when they are someone else's problem. Viewing crisis after crisis as some sort of sick entertainment, our voyeuristic curiosity de-sensitising us and dehumanising the people involved.

Have we reached the end of the road?

The path we've walked so far has been potholed with atrocities; horrors recent enough to remember in our history books but seemingly removed enough to forget in our hearts.  And while the refugee crisis currently takes prime position on the world tragedy stage, our smaller scale attitudes add fuel to the raging fire. Parasitic subtleties; initially harmless but eventually lethal, feeding from a potent mix of sensationalism, apathy, and scapegoating.

The pitied look thrown in the direction of the wheelchair user; our inner monologue breathing a silent sigh of relief. Relief that we are not them. The almost-mute judgement heaped upon the mum in the supermarket whose fourth kid is pitching a shit-fit over a packet of smarties. Almost-mute, but the incessant screaming forces a tiny tut from our lips; small to us, but heavy enough to break that mum today. The torrent of words we can't stop bubbling up when we pass that girl; the one who's all arse cheeks and boobs. She could really use a lesson in self respect. Our crushing cynicism when we cross the street to avoid the Big Issue guy, he probably just spends all the money on drugs anyway. 

These are the seeds of segregation-the promotion of an us-and-them mentality even on the lowest level- so small and yet so laden with potential. With careful watering from an agenda-driven media they flourish into full on racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and whatever-the-fuck-else-you-want-to-place-blame-on-o-phobia. 

Have we reached the end of the road? 

Despite my incessant optimism and hope for a brighter future, this feels heavy; an ever desperate unfolding of events onto an ever-darkening horizon. Coming to the festival made me think again. On the first night we sat around a giant campfire- people together being people in the warmth of the flames. Sitting round that fire, chatting and connecting on a baseline human level triumphed over differences, those differences scattered by in-the-moment, shared human experience. There is no us-and-them. Just us. The human race. We all count. 

One of the most powerful experiences I had was watching Sufjan Stevens play. His lyrics are raw, his performance slick but incredibly intimate, and he emanates the kind of fragile beauty which only comes from the willingness to get vulnerable and be real. The thing that takes Sufjan to another level isn't his gorgeous voice, or his stunningly beautiful stage set, but his pointed refusal to be anything other than painfully honest. In a field surrounded by thousands of other people, the atmosphere was charged with an unshakeable sense of stripped back humanity. I found myself holding my breath while tears streamed down my cheeks, as though breathing would somehow scatter the ethereal vibe that had settled. The two guys we'd met the day before offered me an encouraging hug (thanks guys, really), and in that moment nothing else mattered. I allowed myself to feel; something I'm usually very guarded against because of my need to function well for my kids (especially B), and the whole process was sharply cathartic. 

We all have shit to deal with, and we're all in this together, delicately human in a world where common ground is so much vaster than difference. 

So the End of the Road thank you. I will be forever grateful for the renewed focus of us, together, as humans in a world where the us-and-them mentality is dangerously prevalent, and I will try my best to step up. As a wise man once said, a few dirty drops in an ocean don't make the whole ocean dirty. Ghandi, you're so on the money. Until next time...

'My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.' Desmond Tutu


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