Stretcher-bearers wading through wheat and behind them a field of sunflowers higher than the tallest man. A scene as seen previously in the paintings of Van Gogh – but now with real-life corpses instead of Vincent’s death-wish.
Yet it flies past me – the tragedy of 298 passengers and crew killed when a Malaysian Airlines airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine, presumably by the Russian backed rebels currently controlling the area (though this is still to be verified).
Plane downed over the Great Plain and I know I should be feeling their pain. But for reasons still to be verified, my anti-missile shields have gone up; nothing’s getting through to me – not some body’s holiday reading strewn across the blackened crash site nor the teddy bears of dead children nor the fact that some passengers were human-rights-types en route to an AIDS conference in Australia.
It’s because the casualties are being played for political purposes, I tell myself. It’s because the coverage is strictly one-dimensional, with ‘the vics’ used to indict ‘perp’ Putin, president of Russia.
Show the punters enough victims and there’ll be no disputin’ who did it – seems to bethe gist. Pile high the body bags to hide the praise previously heaped on ‘progressive’ Ukrainians who are pro-Europe and anti-Russia.
I prefer the local miners: outwith the painted ceilings of geo-politics, coming up from underground and searching dutifully for human flesh among the sunflowers; and their wives wearing socks and sandals, plump in cotton print dresses worn thin over many years.
These are the sensitive ones, I tell myself. Despite coarsened features, they are thecivilising influence. How different is their dignified respect for the dead – in contrast tothe prodding of corpses for political ends.
But even as I say it, I know I am fooling myself. Far from confined to the would-be statesmen of Moscow, Brussels or Berlin, the politics of the region are on the ground and underground – among my precious miners, of course.
No, it’s me that’s confined, locking out the rest of the world with the mean-spirited lookof a heavy drinker – though I haven’t touched a drop.
Today I’m learning to live in the way millions have become accustomed to: with only dry eyes on my desert island, seeing through the news to an empty horizon.