In the year of our (cruel, brutal) Lord, 2021, I think if we all looked back over the last five years, the one word that can be used to describe them is tension.
Tension between political parties that has transcended disagreements over budgets and whether or not we should sponsor a new park funding and crashed into fundamental, frothing-at-the-mouth arguments over whether or not some people deserve to exist, even at a local government level (looking at you Republican Party). Tension between family members that you used to love wholeheartedly, simply, innocently – and now who spit and rage over Facebook and at the dinner table, proudly disseminating views that you consider frankly horrific. Tension between the increasing demands from companies, both on their workers and the environment, and the thousands of young people who cannot afford a house. Tension between the longing to see your friends, the mental health toll of loneliness, and between the recognition that you going outside could potentially result in the death of the human being. Even tension between enjoying the sun kissing its way down your arms and the cold awareness that this heat is not normal for Britain, and frankly, might be the coolest summer we have for many years to come.
Tension. Tension. Tension. In every way, in every decision. I think our brains are becoming wrinkled, even more so than they usually are, by the sheer pressure, the sheer difficulty, of every single waking moment of our lives. Hairline fractures everywhere, our skin and our bones unable to cope with the amount of fear and worry and disgust.
Those tensions have always been there – shifting tectonic plates that bumped against one another occasionally, and in those rare confrontations, caused tremendous earthquakes or broiling tsunamis of outrage and arguments. But, in the spaces between the grinding of the earth’s crust, the plates were quiet enough that the vast majority of the tensions could be acceptably ignored by the people who were not in the earthquake zones and were not consistently reminded of the ever-present threat of destruction. Not so, now. It has been waves and waves of consistent difficulty. It may as well be a rapture, the number of wildfires (figurative and literal, unfortunately), tornadoes, whirlpools, avalanches, landslides. Every day, another awareness of a tension between beliefs, between corporations and human life, between ideologies, between the pronunciations of equality and the blatant reality of discord, injustice, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that lies underneath.
It can be a lot.
But unfortunately, recognising these tensions is what we have to do. When we ignored those tensions, they did not go away. And when they did re-emerge, we were fundamentally unequipped to deal with them because we had spent so many years burying them, turning our faces away from them. Now, we reap the consequences.
This is what this issue is fundamentally about. Recognising the tensions. Calling them out. Looking at them, in the face. We may not have all the answers, and it may hurt like poking a bruise to read the pieces written and illustrated by the talented authors and artists of BRIZO. You may want relief. Shelter from the storm.
This issue will not provide that. But if it hurts to read them, if it makes you uncomfortable, if looking at it is like looking at the sun, that’s good. It hurt to write them, to draw them, too. It always hurts when you’re trying to make a change. We need to recognise these unwieldy, difficult, not-easily-solvable problems. We cannot keep turning our eyes away from the earthquake anymore. Wherever you look, there is another disaster, another ball of flame, another blue and toothy wave.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and wade in.
Cover image by Alcira Hava.