by Ivy Tirok, United World College Maastricht
February 14, 2019
14.15. I pick up my phone, trying to postpone my preparation for the next paper.
14.20. I log onto Twitter- Breaking News:
ONGOING TERROR ATTACK AT BUSINESS COMPLEX IN NAIROBI.
14.21. I am temporarily paralyzed.
14.30. I text my family members, attempting to ensure their safety.
15.00. I try to follow the events on social media.
17.05. I am informed that a family member narrowly escaped the attack in its onset.
17.10. I learn that a friend has been arrested as a suspect- a case of mistaken identity.
17.11. I lose touch with reality…
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edge of the print. We lived in the gaps between the stories. It gave us more freedom. We left the life between the punctuation marks for other women… other men… others…
We lived in the suburban homes; with tall trees to shield us from unwanted external stimuli. Our houses stood erect on the other side of the road, across squalid slums. Fresh sea air pressed against sewage; wealth juxtaposed with want.
We ran from politics: that was how you saved your life. Be comfortable with the status quo; show slight annoyance with the government on Twitter; do not be too active in the streets or you will be threatened with tear gas.
When confronted, we employed our piety act- a reflex response: averted eyes, hushed voice, cowered shoulders, feigned shyness. The curse of our culture: exaltation of deference. It was a silent lack of social responsibility.
Atwood postulated that ignoring is not the same as ignorance: you have to work at it. However, there comes a point in life when you begin to question where apathy ends, and action begins. Our time had come.
It was a frantic search for help. A pervasive feeling of insignificance. A newly-born understanding of futility; a state of disbelief. Here we were, offered the luxury of security while our loved ones trembled in the corners of a building, held hostage, praying fervently to be concealed from sight.
We had sat in the privilege of guaranteed meals while images of our malnourished youth made rounds on international news- a savage kind of entertainment for Western viewers. We had enjoyed the benefit of proper education while our equally deserving counterparts languished in the fragments of their professors’ intermittent strikes.
“Where does apathy end and action begin?” The question challenged us. We had to begin to learn how to reconcile our two lives- each as dissimilar as night and day; as separate as oil and water. We were forced to find our toehold in order to contribute to positive change in both our realities.