Delhi Limbo18 November 2016
I’m entrenched in Delhi, at the mercy of Indian bureaucracy, waiting to get my laptop screen out of the Fedex depot just 40km away. The screen in fact landed in Delhi from Texas, the day before I did from Leh. This was two weeks ago and every day since has been an impressive test of my ingenuity and patience.
India functions as a country, there’s no doubting that. I will get my screen eventually, there’s no doubting that either. I’m surviving, no doubt. It’s just all rather joyless.
Not only are we, as a species, able to detect minute, but incontrovertible changes to our climatological trajectory, we have the resources and technology to avert those changes and survive, nay thrive. But we elected Trump, a climate change denier, to one of the most powerful positions in the world. It seems a perfect metaphor for my experience so far of India. On the surface this country appears to suffer the most serious of problems. To take just one example – I can neither drink the water nor breath the air in this city without risking my health. Logistically these problems can be solved, I don’t believe many people would deny that. The problem, the real problem, is people – short-sighted corporations, self-interested politicians and profit-focussed media.
And it’s my fault.
Since arriving in Delhi I’ve been in a grump, slightly depressed, joyless. I’ve gorged on Internet, gone to bed late, woke up late. Preferred my hotel room over sight-seeing. Not worked on my book, nor put any effort into my startup ideas. Meditated for little more than 15 minutes a day. In short, I’ve felt shit.
But what have I done about it? I’ve wallowed. I respond to the pangs of despair by just distracting myself more on the Internet. I know I should try harder and in fact I do – I know this pattern, I know I shouldn’t just sink into it. But my efforts seemingly disappear into the dark and empty ether, just like my phone calls to Fedex. What’s the point? It’s hardly surprising that motivation isn’t naturally bubbling from my heart.
I know I shouldn’t indulge, but still I do. I am the groundswell of support for Donald Trump. I am India. I am a sorely needed package wasting away in a storage room. The problem with the world is people, climate change is a minor detail, a distraction from a far greater disaster. And those people? I am one of them. The difference between me and ‘them’ is a minor detail, a distraction from a far more urgent front line.
How I respond to watching dozens of back to back episodes of Would I Lie To You? and swiping Tinder till 3am in the morning isn’t a metaphor for the battle against indifference to the true plights of the world, it is the battle. Ha, but of course I have enlightened views about politics. I would never vote for that idiot Trump! I’m part of the solution. Merely by existing I’m contributing to a better world. They need to change, not me. Which is convenient because I’m finding it very difficult to dig my way out of this depressive funk I’m in.
If I can’t see myself in Trump or in Indian bureaucracy then I’m in denial. We are all Trump. There is a pathetic and derisible side to me that I hesitate to share, even with myself. Of course I’m not exactly the same as him, there are things about him that should be non-metaphorically and soberly denounced. However, it’s a dangerous, in fact the most dangerous, arrogance to segregate that which we hate as if it could never arise in our own minds.
I wanted to write this because I’ve been struggling for a while, longer than usual. This is not about Trump, India or Fedex. It’s about how I feel late at night, on my own, not wanting to go out, with just the glare of my phone screen hooking me into a world I sincerely desire to be free from. I don’t want to believe that this is me. I want to know that I’m better than this. But this is me, though to be accurate, it is a part of me. And I know from many, many previous experiences, that it isn’t until I have the guts and humility to call a spade a spade that I can start to work through things.
I hate admitting this. I hate admitting that I, like Fedex, leave emails in my inbox too long before replying. I hate seeing myself in Trump. If I’m willing to acknowledge the scientifically undeniable precision of climate observations, then why should I conveniently ignore the personally undeniable observations of my mind?
I am Fedex. I am India. I am Donald Trump. Now that the spade is a spade, I can dig.