For a month now I have been gathering the news, making it as human and beautiful as I can, and releasing it on Facebook in weekly instalments. This has an experiment to see if I can make the news seem more relatable and immediate and to perhaps change my own relationship with it. I post them here to make them a little less ephemeral and to hold onto these very human moments. (I have abridged them a little, which I may regret when I go looking for them later. Each has one or two stories cut.)
This week – December 13th to 20th, 2015 – these things happened in your world:
A boat was lost off of Indonesia. Or it wasn’t. It was carrying 122 people. Or 108. Or 118 – including 19 children and 10 crew members. And perhaps it sunk in high waves or perhaps it has simply lost contact with authorities. This is what the police are saying: That the engine has died but the passengers have not. That they are endeavouring to re-establish contact but the waves are very high. All we know is that somewhere in the ocean there are over 100 people – dead or alive – either on a ferry or off it and that somewhere on land there are many families unsure whether to grieve or anticipate grief.
Somewhere, a man cancelled his buck’s party in order to drink a beautiful, aged bottle of red wine with his fiancée and two of their closest friends. No tiaras, tutus or strippers were involved. Just four friends, four glasses, one bottle and some runny goat’s cheese. They toasted love, happiness, wine and goats.
In Bali, two men with grim faces and lose shirts signed papers, shook hands, apologised to Bali, Indonesia and the World and guaranteed the state a safe Christmas and New Years. The two men, ‘secretary-generals’ of rival Balinese gangs, were responding to a riot, which was started by their gang members inside Kerobokan Gaol and spilled out onto the streets. Four people were killed and another five hospitalised. Both gangs handed over weapons while knives, syringes, scythes and a saw were confiscated from the gaol.
Meanwhile in Turkey the president swore that the Kurdistan Workers Party fighters would be “annihilated” and Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Party called for “honourable resistance”. “If they think they can make us take a step back by showing a tank gun, they are wrong,” he said. “We fear nobody but God.” 55 Kurdish resistance fighters have been killed in the last three days of urban fighting in Turkey.
This week, a woman was told that, “God only gives us as much as we can handle”. The woman cried and cried and cried.
Scientists told us they had found a bone. Well, part of a bone. From this fragment of thigh they told us that the little being weighed approximately 50 kilos, that it lived and died 14,000 years ago, that it shared the world with modern humans and walked upright but knock-kneed. From this shard they knew its knees touched when it walked. The things we can learn from a fragment.
This week – December 7th to 12th, 2015 – these things happened in your world:
This week a little boy was teased by his big brother. The boy was teased because he had cried when he learnt that his kindergarten was closed for the day. It was closed because of pollution. Outside the boys’ grit-covered window, the city of Beijing declared its first-ever red-alert for pollution, ordered almost half its cars off the roads and advised schools and kindergartens to close. Outside that window levels of PM2.5, dangerous microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs, reached above 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum exposure is 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Outside that window, masked faces moved through the murky world, life expectancies shortened, coal was burnt and people blew black and grey snot onto their white, white tissues.
Meanwhile, a Melbourne playwright wrote to a member of the infamous Phelps family on twitter. This woman, who had once exacerbated the grief of countless families by waving signs outside funerals declaring ‘God hates fags’, ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers’ and ‘Planes Crash God Laughs’ responded to the playwright like this: “I couldn’t be more grateful for the kind, generous, amazing people we met after leaving – confounded all our expectations in the best way. The comfort and hope that came from that were wonderfully disorientating, & made our lives so much better.” She signed off the message with a bright red heart emoji.
This week, for the first time women voted in Saudi Arabia. This week, for the first time women were elected to local councils in Saudi Arabia. This week women’s right’s activist Sahar Hassan Nasief said, “Even if it were only one woman, we’re really proud of that. Honestly, we weren’t expecting anyone to win.” But 17 of the 900 Saudi women who ran for office, won. These seventeen were not permitted to speak to male voters in the lead up to the election and, like all Saudi women, they are barred from driving, from trying on clothes in shops, from entering cemeteries, from swimming, from going anywhere without male permission or a mahram (guardian) to chaperon them and from talking to men outside of their families. But despite this and despite the country’s Grand Mufti describing women’s involvement in politics as “opening the door to evil”, this week they voted and were elected. New politician Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi told the world “my whole life has been a struggle. I will be in contact with society, especially women, to deliver their voices and demands to the council. I promise I will represent her by all means.”
This week – November 30th to December 6th, 2015 – these things happened in your world:
This week Japan told us that 14 ghost ships had washed up on their shores since October. The vessels, manned by skeletons with and without their heads, are part of a much larger fleet: more than 250 boats have arrived in the last five years. The World thinks they may be from North Korea. The World thinks they were fishermen forced out into deeper and wilder oceans by Kim Jong-un’s orders to catch more fish to solve the country’s food shortages. The World thinks Kim Jong-un is a crazed and dangerous dictator with little regard for the lives of his people. The World thinks many things. The men, who have been dead and lost so long that their heads roll around the floors of their boats, have final found a harbour.
On Saturday morning in Australia, a very happy small dog found the rotting leg of something very dead and carried it with her in her mouth for 100 meters until her owner saw the prize and, with a very high-pitched voice and much hand-flapping, made her drop it.
In San Bernadino, USA, a woman whose Facebook profile was still drenched blue, white and red in solidarity with far away victims of violence, died as a victim of violence. With her died a man who loved Renaissance fairs; a man who once coached a princess-themed soccer team made up of five-year-old girls; three people who had fled violence in other countries only to died in America; a man whose Christmas present from his mother was sitting on his doorstep; an avid gardener; a woman who once eloped; a man with tattoos of both his grandfathers and his first wife; a man with a tie clip of the Star of David; a woman with three sisters; a man with rainbow, gay-pride earrings; a man who donated doves to families who had lost someone so they could be released at funerals.
In south-west Victoria, the MS Portland has been moored for three weeks. Its crew are refusing to undertake their final voyage to Singapore where their ship will be sold and scrapped and they will be made jobless. Whilst their union fought the decision to replace the Portland with a foreign vessel and crew, a small koala wandered down the breakwater, climbed up the mooring rope and settled down for a nap. The crew were touched and he was been named ‘Comrade Koala’ by the union for his show of solidarity.
This week – November 23rd to 29th, 2015 – these things happened in your world:
This week in your world, Western Australia specifically, a coronial inquest was told how Yamatji woman Julieka Dhu begged for medical help from her cell in Port Hedlands. They were told how, a police officer said to a nurse at the Hedlands Health Campus that Julieka was “faking it” shortly before she went into cardiac arrest and died. Julieka’s family told the inquest that she was a victim of domestic violence and had been assaulted by her partner. She told her father “Dad, my man throbs me, he broke my ribs.” These broken ribs, untreated contributed to her death from septicaemia and pneumonia but Sergeant Bond made an entry into the custody system that Ms Dhu “appears to be suffering withdrawals from drug use and is not coping well with being in custody”. She was imprisoned for $3622 worth of unpaid fine. She was 22-years-old. Juliaka’s was 339th Aboriginal death in custody in the two decades since a Royal Commission delivered 339 recommendations for change. The vast majority of these recommendations were never implemented. “They shouldn’t have treated anyone like that, they left her there like a dog, to die,” said her father. The hearing will continue in two weeks.
Somewhere this week, man in his late-eighties, who had always vowed that his staffy would be his Last Dog, relented to his family’s urgings and went to the pound. He had not expected to outlive Last Dog but his heart had kept on beating whilst hers had fluttered away. He endured the silence of his house only a few weeks after her death before allowing himself to be loaded into his daughter’s car and driven to the local shelter. And now he is in his armchair with a dog smaller and yappier than he ever expected to love. But love her he does.