“I can’t breathe”

It's probably time we started listening.

It’s a long weekend here in New Zealand, and I’ve mostly just been glued to twitter and instagram stories, looking at the chaos unfold.

I was hesitant to write this newsletter today - especially considering my stuff usually focusses on oddball distractions - but I just felt like I should.

And while there are a million fucked-up things going on in the world at any given moment, it’s hard not to look at America right now.

I look to it because I always have - growing up in New Zealand, I absorbed its pop culture like a sponge. And so I’ve grown up loving what it represents to me, in my tiny simple, world.

And now we’re consumed by the images of a white cop murdering George Floyd. And he does it proudly, happily, smugly. He’s not alone - other police officers are standing idly by, not giving two shits.

As someone more astute than me pointed out on twitter, America gets riled up about taking a knee in protest, but take a knee on a black man’s neck and that’s just fine.

But it’s not, of course it’s not, and now America is on fire.

And that cop is just a piece of trash that’s been egged on by a racist president (both during his disastrous tenure as the Commander-in-Chief, and in his other life as a reality TV star), who’s just riding high on systemic racism that’s been in place for hundreds of years.

It’s not new at all. It’s old. It’s ever-present.

And, strangely, all the white people wandering around in their lives don’t notice any of this. They’re fine. It’s 2020. All lives matter.

I’ll never understand it. I won’t, not properly. I have no lived experience in this.

My life is easy. It always will be. In a way I’m the last person who should be writing about this because I have no first hand experience.

But the protests start and the world notices. And the police treat the protestors like utter scum. They exhibit behaviour that is just objectively low. Casually opening their car door onto a protestor as they speed past. Turning their rubber bullets on a female reporter. Calling another woman a “Stupid fucking bitch” before throwing them to the ground.

And then the conspiracy theorists come out — because a narrative of a giant secret world order running this chaos is somehow more comfortable than reality.

And so for the scared and confused, the new big-bad Bill Gates is briefly eclipsed yet again by George Soros. Anti-semitism is suddenly back again in full force (because that’s never gone away, either) as a Jewish man is blamed for inciting a race war.

We can’t be endlessly smug about this in New Zealand, either. We’ve been trialling arming our own police. And who’s going to feel the brunt of armed police? It won’t be me. Not me. Seems fine. What’s the problem.

People are pushing back. #ArmsDownNZ has been trending.

And as that trends, an American cop jiggles up and down like an excited schoolboy hitting puberty, before running off to smash someone’s fucking face in.

We’re living in a fucked up time.

Hanging over all our heads is global warming, a disaster bigger than anything we could ever dream up. It’s a pulsating, dreary background noise. A pandemic rips across the world, showing us how fragile our existence is in this giant, connected world. And then under that umbrella of doom, a cockroach — that happens to be president — thrives, inciting the worst in us. And a cop listens, and a cop goes out and murders a man.

“I can’t breathe.”

That’s what that dead-ass cop needed to listen to. That’s what we all need to listen to. George Floyd told us that, the world is telling us that, but we’re not listening.

We never listen.