A world with (Un)comfortable numbness

by Arafat Mohammad Noman

AFP

AFP

The last two lines from the monumental English rock band Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, “The dream is gone; I have become comfortably numb”, ignite a dystopian invocation if we replace the ‘I’ with ‘We’. The dream is gone and we have become comfortably numb. No doubt we have become numb but are we really comfortable?
I would rather say it an imagined state of ‘being in a comfort zone’ with an eerie feeling of helplessness. This feeling does not come every now and then. It just sometimes strikes us with a guilty conscience when we confront something unusual or non-conventional- say for example an unusual murder, an atypical rape or an out of the ordinary bomb explosion.
After the attack at Bataclan music hall, Paris, the cyber media especially Facebook and Twitter launched tokens of sympathies: Twitter through hash tags like ‘#prayerforParis’ and Facebook through offering users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolour.
Much controversy is gaining ground after there is a global outpouring of sympathy for Paris while Beirut remains forgotten. On Thursday, November 12, 2015, two suicide bombers detonated explosives leaving more than 40 people dead in Bourj el-Barajneh, a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, that is inhabited mostly by Shia Muslims.
The accusations and counter accusations are going on behind the motif. Many claim that the West-led new media are actually turning a deaf ear to Beirut, Palestine, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries in political turmoil. What is being overshadowed by this blame-game bickering is an absolute state of inertia or numbness endowed with over-exposed violence.

AFP

AFP

The change of the Facebook profile picture to French tricolour after Paris attack is actually a result of long nurtured dementia that we have carried comfortably or uncomfortably. We are familiar (or made familiar?) with the repeated news of violence from Middle East crisis. We just cannot tag a profile picture with Syrian or Palestinian flag fluttering because we have to keep that for ‘god-knows-how-long’!
But the users who have changed their profile pictures as a symbol of sympathy for Paris should not be brought to trial because they just cannot help doing it. The Paris attack came to them as a jolt, a blow that cannot be imagined in their utmost traumatic nightmares. That action is a result of a desensitised psyche which gets a hiccup after seeing Europe under attack.
If Paris gets repeated attack like Syria, I am quite sure the users of cyber media will get bored! It is a sheer threat for humanity when people lose the ability to acknowledge violence.  Consciously or subconsciously people’s psyche will always look for varied ways of violence.
A simple murder, rape or usual bomb blast will not spark their sense of fear. This is what is exactly happening with the world. The world has been desensitised and we have to acknowledge that we are being psychologically maimed.
It is better to note here that in psychology desensitisation refers to the erasure of emotional responsiveness to a negative or violence stimulus after repeated or over-exposure. We have learnt to accept the ‘our type violence’ in our own comfort zone. Anything that surpasses our comfort zone strikes us.
But it can be guaranteed that an atypical violence will never remain atypical because it is bound to happen repeatedly if not acknowledged. Acknowledgement does not only mean changing profile pictures or giving ‘tweets’ or ‘statuses’. Acknowledgement will be followed by actions. And when it requires action, we are being disfigured and dislocated. The gaps resulted from our dislocation have been acquired by the ideologies that are designed to serve a particular agendum or agenda. And that agendum is not sanctimonious at all!
We cannot resist the violence unless we acknowledge our own schizophrenic state. This schizophrenic state, unlike that pathological one, is actually a breakdown of tied narratives- be it a series of emotion, a sense of history or togetherness. In a postmodern world of fragmentations things are actually falling apart. We are experiencing (or made to experience?) liberation not only from anxiety but a liberation from every other kind of feeling as well, since there is no longer a ‘self’ present to do the feeling.
Postmodern theorist Fredrick Jameson calls it ‘the waning affect’ where feelings are actually fading away. This is kind of a modish detachment from every other feeling which gives a sense of ‘depthlessness’. People will not actually recognise other as they are taught to remain caged in ‘self’. Wrapping up, it can be said that we are being alienated from our emotional narratives and historicity. We have discovered a more ‘real’ ‘life’ in new media.

The author is a lecturer at the Department of English of East West University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *