A heavy weight has rested on our shoulders in this past year and, I believe, much further back. For anyone with a social conscience, it is clear that the world is not how we would like it. Managing such a heavy load eventually takes its toll with anxiety, stress and depression increasingly likely outcomes for those who give a damn. We long for more innocent and carefree times: for a weightlessness that we might have been fortunate to experience before; for carefree joy and fun.
It would be easier, you might think, not to care about injustice and the suffering of others. Some live their lives that way, bothering not until the injustice and suffering calls at their own door. But I still think that standing for a better world has a point. If I blithely enjoy my own privilege then I am complicit in the exploitation of those less powerful.
There is a tradition of philosophers being willing to speak up for their causes. Yet here I am torn. It seems too easy for those who acquired esteem through working in some specialist area to feel thereby entitled to pronounce on matters, it often emerges, they know very little about, their words then causing harm to others. So I proceed cautiously, and continue to feel the weight.
We face a quandary. How can we experience enough carefree moments of joy to maintain our mental health while devoting the requisite attention to The Work of improving the world? Last night I had a glimpse of how this might be possible. It was Eurovision night. For those outside the continent, this is a social phenomenon that is hard to fathom. Nominally an international song contest, it has morphed over the years into a celebration of pan-European queerness that unites like-minded folk of many different countries.
Here is hope. On some occasions – just some – it’s possible for weightlessness to itself to be an act of subversion. Amid decades of hostility to others, where joy has been systematically stripped from our lives, compassion eliminated in politics, the arts deemed unnecessary, we show our defiance in levity, our humanity in joy, and our spirit in fun. The queering of Eurovision has been a success not least because of the political example it sets, proving that a moment of weightlessness can increase our care for others, not diminish it. This was a temporary unburdening, of course, but it’s moments like these that sustain us and show that the crueller world we are being sold is also soundly rejected.