To those unknowing of my childhood my enigmatic and disconnected behaviour must have seemed odd and possibly uncivilised. In youth I could not see beyond getting by and surviving day by day; ‘learning’ was another country where less damaged people lived. I was busy trying to fly that alien craft I was to discover was myself. Sometime after youth I became aware I was a bruise, and every touch hurt me: intimacy, my most desired wish remained my deepest fear. In time, looking around me I saw that everyone has their bruises, and understood like me, that to a greater or lesser extent our limping and imperfect journey to a fog-bound destination was marked by the need for self-protection. Those marks, invisible to the naked eye, were our unspoken history, not recorded in those smiling photographs taken on the beach, sitting beside the man who abused you when the lights went out, or worked his cruelty deep into your soul. The mother who neglected you, so lost was she in her search for “thought perfection.”
When I was young, I grew the emotions which controlled my later life to protect what was left of my capacity to love and wonder; I had no sense of why they ruled me, or the powerful fears which gave them birth. I was secretive, enigmatic and obtuse; politely non-committal and clinging to my secret knowledge that danger has a presence everywhere. I wandered round bewildered and uncomprehending in a private landscape, armed only with a map written in secret code, trying to reach that place I called “The Other Side.” The “Other Side” was nowhere but a dream: a place or person who might offer me sanctuary and the space and peace to discover who I was.
Now in the knowledge of what such childhoods yield in later years, I look in bewildered incomprehension on that landscape of inhumanity which is the modern Gaza and wonder how the children sitting in that place, in bombed out UN shelters, might grow to adulthood and shape their lives. What maps their young minds might be drawing as I write this, to use in later years from which to navigate their future. Horror begets horror, we all know, and hatred breed hatred year on year. We dehumanise our enemies, war after war, until triumphant Hatred rises gloriously from the ruins to shout out his brave re-emergence in this, our modern landscape.
We, with our knowledge of conflict and human history; of the consequences of trauma in our lives, watch these children cry, and wonder how, out of sight of some new skyscraper, now the tallest building in the planet, we manage with every generation, to construct a new hell on earth.