Countless horrors have been inflicted on the citizens of one country by another this month. There are no answers here, just thoughts on the consequences of war.
The rainbows of 2020's pandemic have become Ukrainian flags – I've seen them on cars, painted on rocks, atop poles, affixed to bridges, in window displays, on churches, and in the favourite tool of armchair activists: Twitter handles.
To forget that there are victims on both sides of conflict is to think in binaries and further fuel an us-versus-them environment that got us into this mess to begin with. People from different countries often have different positions. We come from different doctrines, with different histories, have had different experiences, heard different media, and hold different prejudices, and yet we all have the same basic human needs; shelter, safety, and sense of connection.
War is anathema to these things. War is an obliteration of individuality, an eradication of reason, a genocide of culture and, in a world where superpowers have means to launch world-ending weapons on hair-trigger notices, any war is one against all of humankind.
Countdown to Zero is a great documentary from the makers of An Inconvenient Truth all about why we must abolish nuclear weapons. Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator is also very good. Filmed during World War II, Charlie plays both a persecuted Jewish barber and a ruthless dictator. I've been thinking a lot about his closing speech this month.
I think one of the most interesting things this month has been Facebook's take on the whole invasion. They suspended quality controls in the region allowing Ukrainians to call for violence against its aggressor, turning against the very country that used their platforms to destabilise elections in the West just a handful of years ago. Although a correct decision, it further cements the company in my mind as entirely lacking in any kind of integrity.
The Perfect Weapon by David E. Sanger is a great read and shines more light on warfare in the internet age. There's plenty about nuclear weapons, cyber sabotage and the usual bad actors in there. Meanwhile, LikeWar is all about the weaponisation of social media. It was published in 2018 but there's plenty about Ukraine's conflict in the context of Crimea's annexation.
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When news broke 36 days ago that the next prolonged bad news story was finally here, it perhaps wasn't surprising I felt bummed out – a small, personal consequence of war.
When we look out into the world, we can see the horizon. It's where each day begins and ends but it's also in the headlines we consume and the stories we tell ourselves of the way the world works.
Our horizon has shrunk. For the past two years, we've never been able to see much beyond the next lockdown. I've found the news distressing and appalling and I've found myself doing what I did when the COVID 19 crisis first hit and scheduling breaks away from rolling news coverage. The link between doom-scrolling and poor mental health is both scientific and anecdotal fact; it's in these moments that news organisations like Delayed Gratification, Tortoise, and Positive News come in handy.
There's also hope in the horizon; we can only see so far ahead but we know there is so much more that lies beyond it. There's so much more to be seen, to be enjoyed, and accomplish, so much more to give, and so much more to live.
That's the hope I'm taking into next month.
You'll next hear from me on April 30th 2022.
I create multi-award-winning podcasts at Fun Kids including Mysteries of Science and The Week Junior Show.
I write for Science+Nature magazine and have freelanced for Boom Radio, RadioDNS, and more. Millions have heard, seen, or read something I’ve made.
I sent the first radio programme to deep space, as featured in the 2023 Guinness World Records book, and am developing Send a Message to Space. Tap follow to get updates in your podcast app.