Within 3 weeks we have witnessed the destruction of a country, and a nation: about 1 in 4 Ukrainians are now either refugees or internally displaced, the rest of them either on the frontline or looking for food and medicine. Children are growing up with PTSD, forever psychologically scarred by the sound of bombs. Many will undoubtedly grow up afraid, angry, confused, unable to ever feel safe for the rest of their lives as they are perpetually hunted down by bombs in their dreams.
I had no idea that Ukrainian cities were so beautiful, until I saw them bombed. We are now entering the phase of normalisation of the war: we are getting used to witnessing images of Armageddon, of beauty being destroyed in front of our eyes. This is the most dangerous phase, as we become completely de-sensitised to the daily toll numbers: we begin to switch off, trying to think of these numbers not as people, but as peas, beans, or beads on a broken necklace. We are trying to protect ourselves. We are trying not to feel, not to grieve. We are trying to convince ourselves that this war is happening somewhere far away, a special place where all the wars happen.
That place is in fact the entirety of Earth of course, and we have been at war with each other since the beginning of time. Our civilisation is at war with nature, and with the very climate system that supports it. Destruction is the biggest legacy that humans will leave on this planet, a truth that very few want to admit and which they consider “pessimistic”, as if they’ve forgotten our history. But destruction is, and will always be, our greatest “achievement”. Greater than any trip to the moon, any invention, any Italian opera or work of art. It will cast a shadow on everything that came before it.
What is religion? If anything, isn’t it the belief that we can be better than what we are? That there is some higher benevolence watching over us? The fairy tale is unraveling. We have killed the benevolence that was sustaining us on this planet. And we will never become better than who we are, the more we are unable to see how we are being manipulated by new, ever-growing, up-and-coming religions: from QAnons to the de-nazification of Ukraine.
Imagination is a gift and a curse. It has allowed us to create, to innovate. And it has also allowed us to manipulate others, and to convince ourselves of the stories that we meticulously crafted: whether it is about Adam and Eve, Ukrainian Nazis, or the inexistence of the Climate Crisis and ecological apocalypse that is silently taking place. The more the destruction becomes apparent, the more we will desperately try to use our imagination in search of new religions that will make us believe:
Believe that “this is not us” perpetrating these crimes.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books