I seem to say this a lot these days. You’d think by my age, I’d be jaded and cynical enough to dispense with such exclamations of incredulity, but no. I still find myself regularly shaking my head, and mumbling, ‘I can’t believe it.’
Of course, sometimes I use it out of habit, for example:
‘I can’t believe we’re late for school, again!’
‘I can’t believe I still haven’t mopped the kitchen floor.’
‘I can’t believe it’s taking me so long to write this blog post/short story/poem/email/comment.’
Obviously, I actually can believe these things. I’m just saying that I can’t, to emphasise my frustration at not getting something I want.
But more often, lately, I find myself reading something or hearing something, which I really can’t believe. What I’m really saying, then, is ‘I don’t understand.’ Because it is so far beyond my understanding as to be beyond belief. Because it is so unjust, or callous, or unfair, or dishonest, or illogical, or any or all of those things.
I can’t believe that despite our prime minister being an unmarried atheist, who lives with her long-term partner, she has yet to come out in favour of gay marriage. I can’t believe that so many politicians really think it is going to affect our society, that it is going to somehow impact the marriages of straight couple. Really? Do they really think that? I can’t believe how many politicians are getting away with being able to suggest that gay couples who want to marry are somehow sexual deviants who also engage in illegal activities. I can’t believe the obsession with what people do in the bedroom. Aren’t we over that yet?
I can’t believe we still rely so greatly on fossil fuels. We have known for decades that they’re running out and that they pollute the place. I can’t believe that we’ve not managed to develop better photovoltaic and battery technology, or more efficient windmills. I know we’re getting there, but it is taking So. Damned. Long. I can’t believe companies which make millions upon millions every year are not able to try harder, are not able to take a financial hit for a short time so that we can look forward to a cleaner future. I can’t believe this just doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Even after years and years of knowing that we need to change.
I can’t believe…
that someone can walk into a primary school and shoot 20 very small children dead, plus the teachers who were trying to protect them. I can’t believe that this tragedy can be downplayed or that discussion thereof can be quashed for the sake of ‘respect to the victims’ because someone might talk about the guns. I can’t believe that sweeping gun reforms are not being signed into law THIS VERY MINUTE. I can’t believe that there is mass-shooting upon mass-shooting in the US and the general response seems to be the shrugging of one’s shoulders and a resigned sigh of, ‘Well. Watcha gonna do?’ I can’t believe that children can lie on the floors of their classroom, bleeding to death, and that someone’s right to own a powerful, semi-automatic weapon is more important than the right of those children to go to school one Friday and live to see the weekend.
The thing is, I’m fairly open to changing my beliefs. I’m not saying I change my mind on a whim, rather, if your beliefs are different to mine, and then you explain to me why you believe what you do, why it’s rational and logical and why It makes sense, and I’m convinced, I will change what I believe. I might wriggle uncomfortably and complain bitterly, but I’ll do it.
And every day, I’m hearing arguments against so, so many things: against gay marriage, against investment in renewable energy, against tighter gun control. And I’m not convinced. These arguments are riddled with every fallacy in the book – straw man, slippery slope, bad analogy – and they do not go even close to making a good case as to why I should change my mind. I can’t believe they’re not trying harder.
I suppose it is lazy politics; it is irresponsible leadership; it is rhetoric and spin. It is people saying not what they really think, not what others want them to say, but what those who give them money or influence want them to say. It must be that people are doing and saying things, not for the good of others, not to prevent deaths or promote happiness or to even foster an environment where life could thrive, but to ensure their own positions of power.
I guess I’m cynical and jaded enough after all, because that, I can believe.