The thing about sympathy is the silence of inaction. It doesn’t make one responsible for the emotion. The feeling is perhaps that nameless feeling about being trapped in a giant structure where one is a tiny oblivious thingling. Today, listening to Memory Palace’s latest episode waaaay past bedtime in a station that was almost completely destroyed by the Second World War, that feeling took over.
Maybe the right reaction is not one of despair but – to call it what a very wise friend called it – “to wait critically”. If you are living in a city, positions of radical politicking can range from the genuine position of trying to ending up in a facetious circle where friends meet once in a while in a gentrified neighborhood cafe to read Gramsci. I am not trying to provoke anyone into anything, really. The position that I am trying to articulate has to do with the (inward) reflection of locating oneself in that stance. After all, it is a commonly known thing that in an academic space easily articulate lines about solidarity often lead to an even more problematic position: that of a person who having had the privilege has now decided to speak on behalf of someone else.
There is, of course, not an idea about policing people’s choices but to make them realise that the space that is being used for articulation of sympathy and solidarity is not the best strategy for the minoritarian position. This position – often with “critical waiting” – needs a new vocabulary that would allow the plight of sympathy to not drown in the silence of inaction but weaponise that silence and then make it speak. A good example of this is the silence at the end of this episode of Memory Palace.
This is not just the silence of the text but the silence of a history that has been glossed over. This is the silence that Nate Dimeo (bless him for the work he does!) has designed for the horror to sink in. Of course, the horror is the juxtaposition the brain makes with contemporary history of refugees; be it at the US-Mexico border or the Hungary-Serbian border. What does one do? The answer has to be more than sympathy.