In my helplessness, powerlessness and pain at the Russian invasion of Ukraine I find myself wishing I was usually a consumer of Russian vodka.
Then, courageously refusing to go on buying it (switching, righteously and on principle and in spite of the terrible personal sacrifice involved, to vodkas instead made in Finland and Latvia) I could enjoy the warm inner glow that came from my own powerful personal shirtfronting of Putin.
But quickly (for irony and satire are lost on some readers) I leap to say the opening words of today's column are tongue-in-cheek. They are prompted by news reports of a lot of righteous boycotting of vodkas now going on, including of vodkas presumed to be Russian but in fact distilled elsewhere.
Stoli vodka, made in Latvia, is reported to be a major commercial casualty of a muddle-headed vodka boycott that, perhaps, has the unthinking boycotters and pour-down-the sinkers masturbatorially doing an inconsequential something that gives them a fleeting, fake, anti-Putin buzz.
For my part I could not righteously give up buying and using Russian-made anything (no, not even caviar) without my mind (which watches itself) telling me that I am a w***er if I kid myself my 'sacrifice' is meaningful in any way.
In which case, wincing at my mind's unkind use of the W-word, I think I would retort that perhaps we should be a bit charitable towards all of us who are feeling helpless and powerless and generally wretched at the moment. Perhaps we can be excused for wanting to do something, anything, and for sometimes ending up doing things that perhaps look are lame and silly.
So for example I wonder what my mind is making of something I have just done (something I am not telling my mind about I lest it call me by the w-name) in forwarding two new, forceful, Russian-invasion-deploring poems to the memberships of two poetry groups I am affiliated with?
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The two poems (one defiantly, feministically ferocious, the other grieving) by Ukrainian poet Ludmila Khersonsky have just been published online, in Russian and in English translations, by the admirable The White Review. Now, through this column's advice, I have also forwarded the poems to those internet-savvy readers of this column who choose to read some poetry about these despairing times.
But, as would be the case if chose to pour my Russian vodka down the sink, I don't kid myself that my circulating of some poems (poems!) to a tiny congregation of poetry-disposed folk makes a ha'porth of difference anywhere in the great scheme of things. We are right to revere fine poetry and to notice how fine poets and their poems (Ludmila Khersonsky and her two poems are examples of this) express important things that otherwise never get expressed in words at all (which is why this columnist continues to campaign for Canberra to have a city poet). But to attack the cold Vladimir Putins of our species with poems is as effective as having them attacked by butterflies.
Everywhere where I consume news and comment about the Ukrainian horror there now pops up expert warnings of the mental health consequences of watching graphic film footage of the war and its terrible consequences. What of you, dear reader? Are you now self-preservingly avoiding TV and internet video footage of the war, perhaps at the same time agonising that it is cowardly not to pay complete attention to the plight of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters?
An example of this late-breaking genre of watch-what-you-watch concern is Richard Restak's WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES: Footage from a war and the effects on your brain, for the online American Scholar.
Restak is clinical professor of neurology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the author of 25 books on the brain. So he must be listened to respectfully as he says: "The graphic images of Russia's invasion of Ukraine being televised around the clock, and available on the internet, might finally answer a long-debated question among neuropsychiatrists: Does PTSD by proxy exist?"
"In other words, can people suffer serious mental health consequences when they are exposed to depictions of the horrors inflicted on others? And if so, what are the implications?"
In a short but thoughtful piece Restak goes on to conclude: "Given my experience in diagnosing and treating PTSD, I fear that a significant proportion of people exposed to these images of the Russian-Ukrainian war will suffer some form of mental distress ... we can't yet know whether viewing images of other people's suffering, mutilation and death can portend grave consequences for our mental health, our sensibilities and our shared sense of humanity. At the current rate of exposure, however, we'll soon have our answer."
In recent columns I have sometimes invited readers to "time travel" with me, often to the Canberra of the far away future. Those of you who have struggled to join these sorts of voyages are in distinguished company.
In a Q&A at the 2012 Seattle Science Festival the great Dr Stephen Hawking was asked: "What would it take to make time travel a reality?"
He ended his typically intellectually astute answer by confiding: "I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible. I gave a party for time-travellers, but I didn't send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came."
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Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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