The Strangest Summer

I had my first ever panic attack yesterday evening, and honestly – and I will be very honest with you here – it was a total cunt.

I was on the London Underground, except I wasn’t really, not in my own head. In my head, I was in a cage that was being lowered into the ocean, and I was drowning and drowning and drowning and I couldn’t breathe. My lungs felt full of smoke and water and I couldn’t think or see through the blind panic that had settled across my entire mind like a thick layer of murky pollution. Honestly the inside of my head was like Victorian London, I could not see shit in there. Every time I managed to grasp a coherent thought, something that could anchor me back into reality, it slipped away into the mist and the anxiety consumed me.

I don’t know how I got home, but when I did I collapsed on the floor and cried as two of my housemates soothed me. One gave me some herbal remedies which I could barely shove into my mouth because I was sobbing like a heartbroken child.

Like I said, the experience was a total cunt. And very likely stemmed from pent up stress and uncertainness regarding moving. It’s an odd experience, to throw your very comfortable life completely into the void and then shrug, hoping it’s not a colossal mistake.

The Void.jpg

I threw my life screaming into the void and the void whispered back, ‘you’re an ungrateful butthole.’

The attack also marked the start of a very bizarre 24 hours in which I have been mostly drunk, nearly missed my flight because I fell asleep in the airport for 2 hours (the only 2 hours I have slept in the last 36), temporarily joined a stag do who very kindly bought me a lot of Heineken on my flight and then met my utterly wonderful Air BnB host, who is a very talented contemporary dancer, cabaret performer and Pilates teacher. We barely have a common language but he made me an amazing coffee and showed me his fantastic work and welcomed me into his beautiful home.

Pizza.jpg

My Air BnB host is basically everything I wish I could be but refuse to work for because ultimately, I prefer sleep and eating pizza to pretty much everything.

And now I am sat here with yet more beer wondering where the summer went and how it was quite so intense and spectacular and exhausting. There were charming eccentricities and exciting people at every turn. And now somehow, inexplicably, I live in Spain because the last 3 months have made no sense, and life makes no sense and nothing makes sense really at all but it’s all quite marvellous regardless.

This is a strange blog post because it’s mostly just my stream of consciousness, an immediate reaction to a time so strange it defies being put into words, quite honestly.

But holy shit, what a time it has been.

 

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On Leaving London

Time waits for no man.

Spanish Flag

I have been in London for two years, although it has felt significantly longer. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, a lot of good, bad, cool and weird things have happened during my time here. Almost too many things for 24 months. A few of them I am borderline convinced I dreamed.

Secondly, London is where I experienced the heady and bizarre growing pains that shape the early twenties of the millennial generation, a generation that frequently feels lost and lonely in a time when the world has never been more global or humanity better connected. It was a time of, as Kylie Jenner might say, ‘realising stuff,’ about both myself and the world. Some of it terrible, but a lot of it surprisingly positive.

BoJo

Pictured: the not so positive. Also, an accurate representation of how I am feeling right now.

I thought leaving London would be euphoric and I am sure when I board a one way flight to Barcelona, the joy will be genuine and immense (although at present, it hardly feels real). For the first time ever, I feel as though I am choosing to take the next big step in my life instead of having it thrust upon me. Leaving school, leaving home, graduating University, getting a job, moving to one of the most metropolitan cities on Earth – everything felt as though it happened very suddenly, before I was ready for it. I think this sentiment echoes across an entire generation trying to find their way.

But I have an odd connection to the vast and densely populated capital of England, one that I don’t think will ever die. I sincerely hope that I never have to come back and although I spent the first 12 months here feeling like I was constantly at the point of drowning, teetering on the edge of a very real and painful depression, I know I will look back on my time here and cite it as one of my most important chapters. And in between the bad times, likely one of the most fun.

For so many people I know, navigating the early twenties was something of a battlefield. A baptism of fire. I watched my peers conquer their demons, which came in a variety forms: mental health, grief, heart break, stress, repressed emotions and a seemingly constant fear of being not quite good enough. And it was really fucking cool, watching my friends grow into excellent adults who are confident and comfortable within themselves. It was really fucking cool doing it myself.

Thailand

Basically ‘I found myself’ and I didn’t even have to travel to South East Asia to do it! Also, it turns out that I am excellent.

And now it’s time to move onto to the next big adventure- although I will be honest, at present that consists mostly of putting things into boxes and then labelling those boxes, so it’s less bold adventure and more life administration.

Leaving London honestly feels a little like heartbreak, not just because of the life I am leaving behind and the dear friends who will no longer be close by, but also because I feel like my time here shaped me into a person who is not a complete piece of shit. It was hard, desperately hard at times, but I think with the benefit of hindsight, it was also completely necessary. I thought often about writing this piece, long before I knew I was leaving. I always assumed that it would be a joyous post. In reality,  I feel a mixture of emotions and have instead penned a love letter to a place that shaped me beyond what I can properly put into words

And on that note, I shall stop, before the self-indulgence becomes too much for anyone to continue reading. Stay wild London – there’s a whole new generation coming up who might be needing you.

To Barcelona.

When You Become That Political Bellend

The EU referendum has been the culmination of my political awakening. A political awakening is a bit like a sexual awakening, except it’s nowhere near as fun and everything makes you feel really fucking angry instead of relentlessly horny. Sexual awakening means coming of age and developing an understanding of your body, your sexuality and your place in the world. Political awakening means learning horrible things, like how few exceptionally powerful men run your country’s media or that your Prime Minister apparently once received fellatio from a dead pig.

David Cameron

Pics or it didn’t happen! HAHAHAHA pls don’t show me pics man I’m delicate I can’t.

I guess the two actually have very little in common, but I am presently one glass of wine (edit: make that two glasses of wine) deep into my evening so the analogies and metaphors will not be subtle and I will not apologise for that.

It is only recently that I realised quite what a political bellend I have become. Once upon time, I was just satisfied that the British public cast their votes at all. That was me at 18 – bright eyed and bushy tailed, just old enough to throw my exceptionally liberal vote into the ballet box. I didn’t mind what party or politician people voted for, I just wanted people to vote. I wanted them to exercise their right to democracy in a world where so many people are silenced and murdered for even considering such a thing.

Like many people at 18, I was pretty naïve.

Now, when it comes to voting on anything remotely political,  I am that guy, all up in your social media newsfeeds (and if you are unfortunate enough to know me in person, your face), yelling about my opinion and why your opinion should be like my opinion.

Of course in reality, your opinion can be what you want – all I ask is that it is moderately well informed.

I am still grateful for democracy every day. I am grateful to not only be allowed my opinion, but to be actively encouraged in expressing it, defending it and admitting its limitations. But growing means waking up to truths you never knew were there and that sometimes you wish you did not have to know.

My dear work bae, Ana Brenikov, expressed it best for me. She has a unique eloquence that is born from a fundamental understanding of how things work and why people are the way are. One of our colleagues asked me why I am so into politics, why it burns something so deep inside of me. After all, isn’t an interest in politics just like reading or cooking or rock climbing – another hobby of mine?

And Ana explained it like this.

When you start to look at and understand the vast web of interlinking global politics, it becomes very difficult not to feel passionate about how your country and the world more widely is run.

I am by no means a political expert, but a lot of the time, developing an understanding of the political world around you feels a lot like being violently awoken  from a peaceful and excellent sleep. You’re groggy as fuck, everything slowly comes into focus and then suddenly you are very, very pissed off.

I see career politicians who have never worked in the professions they now have power over (oh hey Michael Gove as former Secretary of State for Education or Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health), I see the 1% exercise unfathomable amounts of power over the media in my country with no regard for ethical journalism or objective reporting. I see the wealthy breaking laws that the rest of us are supposed to abide by if we want to stay out of prison. I see politicians who bought their careers through their parents instead of toiling for their beliefs.

Slowly, you start to see corruption everywhere. You start to see how you think the world should be run and how it is actually run, and that the two have virtually nothing in common.

And it is long as fuck.

I have tried to stop myself from expressing all the big political opinions that I have, but I cannot find the off switch and I honestly don’t want to. I would rather people are engaged and educated and have an opinion than sit there not having an opinion at all, or sit there feeling smug because they voted but they don’t feel compelled to explain why they vote the way they do or why they think the way they do.

And I like knowing. I by no means know everything and I never will. I will never fully understand the complexities of global politics, much less global economics. But I want to drink in and understand as much as I can,.

And that, my friends, is how I became that goddamn political bellend on your social media feeds.

Tonight my country decides whether or not it wants to leave the EU and my emotions on the matter are so powerful that it’s unlikely I will sleep properly. My opinion is almost irrelvent. But I want people to read, I want them find what is important to them, to be informed to their best of their ability and to be passionate about where they cast their vote.

…And personally, I hope their vote is to remain.

Craig David

SORRY I TOLD YOU I CAN’T SWITCH OFF THE POLITICAL OPINIONS ANY MORE.

 

Why it is Okay to be Angry

I’ve always worried that perhaps I am too angry of a person. I use quaint variations of the term ‘angry’ to try and sugar coat the vein of aggression that runs deep within me – variations like ‘fiery’ and ‘strong willed’ and ‘a bit of a cunt.’

Now let me clarify something important here: I am at peace with myself. I would even go so far as to boldly declare that I like myself. But I have always wondered about people who seem so serene when they look upon the state of the world. I have often wondered if they know something that I do not, if they have reached some higher level of thought that I have not.

And quite honestly, I have come to the conclusion that these people are walking around with their eyes closed, because if you could see the state of the world, you would be fucking livid.

You may have heard of a minor international scandal breaking in the news over the past couple of weeks. It’s called the Panama Papers and every media and news outlet in the world has been scandalised by the dodgy financial practices of the world’s 1%. The main story that has caught the attention of the UK audience of course, has been David Cameron’s dealings in his father’s offshore ‘company’ Blairmore Holdings. There have been many arguments regarding how and when he paid tax and exactly how he profited from Blairmore Holdings (if he even profited at all). However this is almost irrelevant – the primary outrage is that he has been allowed to partake in a practice reserved for the rich elite, a practice you can partake in only if you have vast amounts of money to drop on hiding your vast amounts of money.

Mossack Fonesca

Honestly it was pretty much a non story with no far reaching implications that could potentially span years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had completely passed you by. 

If you are a normal member of society, like myself, you cannot afford to do this. You have to go to work, apply yourself and pay some fucking tax. And, as Caitlin Moran rightly points out, if every Tom, Dick and Harry in the UK could afford to hide their money in an offshore tax haven and avoid paying tax, the UK would be fucked within a matter of weeks. What David Cameron has done is still legal only because he and his very select group of privileged friends can profit from it and just because something is legal doesn’t make it morally correct. Let me assure you, dear normal person of the UK, if you could avoid tax by hiding your money in an offshore tax haven, it would be very fucking illegal, very fucking quickly.

And just to add insult to injury, this has all happened against the backdrop of the Tories plunging the country into austerity and cutting benefits for disabled people, in order to encourage them to find a job.

‘We’re all in this together’ – once upon time this was David Cameron’s rallying cry to the population of the UK. Classic foot in the mouth moment because as the above shows, he’s in it with his rich besties and if you can’t work because YOU LITERALLY CANNOT WALK, then fuck you I guess.

How anyone can read this and not feel an inordinate amount of rage bubbling within them is beyond me. How anyone can watch refugees suffocating in the back of trucks as they flee their war torn homes and not a feel bitter, angry sadness is mind blowing. When the majority of MP’s voted to airstrike Syria last year, they brayed and applauded their own decision to drop bombs on a mostly innocent civilian population. That’s right – there was no humility. No silently trying to comprehend the gravitas of the situation. There was applause. A FUCKING ROUND OF APPLAUSE. How anyone could watch that and not want to stand on the top of a mountain screaming is unfathomable.

And I have come to a harsh and bitter conclusion – people are not angry for two very important reasons:

  • Because being ignorant is the easy option.
  • Because the world tricks you into this ignorance, knowing that you will stay there, because it is easy.

To understand even a fraction of the Panama Papers, or the refugee crisis, or the complexities of the American political system, or why turning all school into academies is a very bad idea takes work. It takes time. It takes reading. It sometimes takes reading 3 different news sources 5 times and still not fully understanding the story, because it deals with such complicated ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, we need frivolity, we need entertainment and we need the inane in order to cope with just how awful the world can be. But even deeply educated people seem not to give a flying fuck about the state of the world, because to understand the world is damn hard.

Beyonce

We also need Beyoncé, because her new album will be fucking fire (and possibly the last bastion of human hope).

And then we come to point 2 – the world tricks you into not caring, into staying ignorant.

Some very wise bastard (James Ramsay) once said:

‘We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.’

The world is hell bent on making you care about and chase things that are not important. It wants you to chase a ‘good’ job that you probably hate, money, fame and an utterly bastardised version of success created by the wealthy, so that while you are looking the other way, they can fuck around in offshore tax havens, not do their bit for society and generally break a shitload of laws that they expect you to obey.

And if they can keep you stupid and consuming, why would you ever complain, even when you have every reason to?

A wilfully ignorant society is one that is easy to control, and if we truly care more about the clothes we wear than how we treat the people around us then we have failed so completely as a society that I am unsure even Charlie Brooker could mine it for satire.

And that is why anger is not only okay, but necessary. This is why am I not worried about finding inner peace. This is why I don’t care when people tell me to be less angry or to calm down or to be a fucking lady. The second I stop being angry I will have given in to complacency and stopped caring.
And unfortunately for pretty much all of you, that isn’t happening any time soon.

50 Happy Things

Life can be hard. Life can be tough. Life might be shitting on you right now, which is why I briefly considered calling this post ’50 Things That Prove Life Isn’t Shit 100% of The Time. Maybe like 20% of The Time Which is Honestly Great Odds in The Grand Scheme of Things, But I know You Don’t Want to Hear That When Life is Shitting on You.’

Unfortunately, that title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

BUT, there is always a shred of good to be found in amongst the bad. Below, I have compiled a list of small, everyday things that make myself (and undoubtedly many others with great taste) very happy. I realised somewhat recently that occasionally, I look for reasons to be unhappy instead of embracing all the good that is in my life. I sometimes allow hardship to desensitize me, to make me cold and cynical.

image20160321-16192-1icng1s

‘What fish fuck in.’

And even when life is awful and I all I feel is the numbing weight of occasional depression, I am painfully aware that I don’t want to be that person.

On the days when I (or maybe you) don’t feel very good, we can refer to this list and remember that even when life is being a grade A penis, there’s still some small amount of joy in the world.

Without further ado, here are 50 happy things, from my irrelevant (but usually pretty hilarious) perspective.

1.) The fact that there are so many different types of cheese in the world (and that I have yet to try them all).

2.) Daffodils, because they are quite literally the sun in flower form (and the first sign that spring has arrived).

3.) The smell of freshly ground coffee first thing in the morning.

4.) Fresh, warm falafel with hummus.

5.) Petrichor – the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.

6.) Seeing a tiny dog in a big muzzle and thinking ‘what hell hast though wrought, o tiny dog, to deserve a fate such as this!?’

Dog

“I have done unspeakable things.”

7.) When the iconic intro to ‘Hot in Herre’ by Nelly flows through the speakers and your entire body spasms, because you cannot help but immediately dance upon hearing this still fresh af banger.

8.) The shock when you style your hair perfectly first time round. The joy that then follows when you have a flawless day because your hair looks fucking great and nobody can touch you (or your beautiful mane).

9.) When someone sends you a really good Snapchat (or when someone is just generally excellent on Snapchat).

10.) That somewhere in the world, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Trudeau actually exist.

11.) The serenity and sense of being that can be found only in the mountains (or within nature).

12.) When you kiss someone during winter and you both have warm mouths but cold noses.

13.) When someone makes you a cup of tea (and they do it perfectly because their parents didn’t raise a cretin).

14.) When someone genuinely wants to know how your day was and what you did with it.

15.) Eating pizza in bed (this could apply to all food, but pizza is by far the most enjoyable and satisfying for reasons that I cannot fully articulate).

Pizza

I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOOOUUU!

16.) Taking your bra off at the end of a long day and giving your boobs the freedom that they deserve.

17.) Feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your skin (this is significantly amplified if on holiday).

18.) When you catch a bus without having to wait for it, completely by accident.

19.) Absolutely everything about Christmas (FUCK YEAH CHRISTMAS!)

20.) When you have an excellent nap.

21.) Miniature versions of regular sized objects (except for cake, stop making cake smaller you bastards!)

22.) The sense of therapy you feel when cooking or baking. The more elaborate the meal/dessert, the more therapeutic the experience.

23.) When you have a hot water bottle and achieve next level cosiness.

24.) When you have cold hands, so you discreetly warm them on your own boobs.

25.) Cats that don’t run away from you and instead shower you with affection, making you feel like the great queen of the felines or a mighty cat whisperer.

26.) When you have breakfast food for dinner or leftover takeaway for breakfast.

27.) When someone plays with your hair and gently scratches your scalp (because secretly, we are all Labradors).

28.) That you can buy armour for cats.

Armour for cats

There may come a day when this concept is not awesome, BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

29.) When you meet someone on the same wavelength as you and the friendship is instantaneous and effortless.

30.) Spooning.

31.) Hand written letters (and postcards!)

32.) Actually managing to save some money.

33.) Marvelling at how blue the sky truly is on a clear day.

34.) When someone else makes or buys you any form of food, just because they like you and they want your taste buds to be happy. Extra points if it is one of your favourites.

35.) Arguing with strangers on Twitter.

36.) When you deliver a zinging one liner/response and it receives a warm reception from the masses.

37.) Every time you see a shooting star and think ‘holy fucking shit, flying star space rock things!’ (That’s how I science).

38.) Jeff Goldblum’s iconic performance in Jurassic park (and the fact that Jurassic Park exists generally).

Jeff Goldblum

Easily the most seminal and important role of the 90’s. Also, the sexiest.

39.) That you can purchase an Emotional Drake Necklace on Etsy. (Other wonderfully bizarre items worth mentioning: salt distilled from people’s tears, a candle scented like Dumbledore’s fictional office, Sherlock themed thongs and pretty much any item you could desire emblazoned with Kim Kardashian’s ugly cry face).

40.) Seeing people with really cool skills and talents perform said cool skills and talents.

41.) When someone correctly uses one of your favourite words/a great word in a sentence.

42.) When you listen to someone bi/multilingual speaking in a language besides their mother tongue.

43.) Pug dogs.

44.) A very personal one – When I see wild Heather chilling on the mountains and feel a sense of kinship with my hardy little namesake. I then Googled ‘Heather’ and found an ENTIRE WEBSITE dedicated to Heather called ‘The Heather Garden’ and let’s be honest those jokes write themselves.

45.) When you buy new climbing gear, revel in its newness, then break it in on some rock.

46.) When nobody is home, so you can stroll around naked as the day you were born. And pee with the door open. (Shout out to all those people sans family and housemates who can do this all day every day!)

47.) The exhausted, slightly battered yet utterly triumphant satisfaction you experience when you have been outdoors climbing all day (or hiking, or skiing, or surfing, or kayaking or etc). The first sip of a crisp, cold beer when in this gratifyingly weathered state is also something quite special.

48.) When your bare feet are in contact with the grass, sand, tarmac or dirt and you lament the need for shoes because bare feet against the earth feels magical.

49.) The sound of rain outside when you are tucked up safely in bed with absolutely zero need to get up and go outside.

50.) When someone tells you that they love you.

 

Why Have An International Women’s Day?

(AKA, why don’t we have an International Men’s Day too, or an International Equality Day?)

Update: there is an International Men’s Day, huzzah! However the below still stands.

On International Women’s Day, I expect the usual tirade from ignorant men asking why there is no International Men’s Day. It is remarkably similar to when white people criticise Black History Month or declare that all lives, not just black lives, matter.

Khloe Kardashian

If I could roll my eyes any harder they would disappear into my fucking head.

I am not writing this for men however, as I am not here to pander to men who are too lazy and ill-informed to read a book.

I’m here to talk to the women.

What has broken my heart today has been the sheer number of women on social media asking why International Women’s Day is still relevant or why we don’t have an International Equality Day instead. Spoiler alert, it’s because equality is a myth.

Women live in a world that was built by and is still run by (mostly white, mostly wealthy) men. These wealthy white men benefit from this patriarchal structure both financially and socially, while women (and especially poor women and women of colour) tend to be disadvantaged by said structure and the men who maintain it.

For example, adult illiteracy is at an all-time low the world over, but women make up the vast majority of those who cannot read because in certain areas of the world they are denied access to an education. In other parts of the world, female genital mutilation is still seen as a socially acceptable thing to do to very young girls, who have no say in how their body is treated or any understanding of what is happening. In America, a first world country, men still seek to control women’s reproductive rights by closing abortion centres and attempting to restrict access to the morning after pill. Sexual abuse, assault and rape is still overwhelmingly committed by men against girls and women; ditto to domestic violence. Oh, and just two days ago, The Guardian published an article stating that women in the UK will earn £300, 000 less over their lifetime when compared to men.

Pugs

I keep trying to make jokes but I am too angry. Here is some cute puppies to ease the trauma that was the previous paragraph.

These examples barely even scratch the surface of the issue, they are merely drops in a much larger pond.

So this is a call to my fellow girls and women – just because the above doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean that the fight is over or that International Women’s Day is unnecessary.

Women who can’t see why we need an International Women’s Day are generally lucky enough to be born white, to be born into first world countries, to be well educated and financially independent, to have lived lives relatively free of trauma.

Women like this, like me, benefit from an immense amount of social privilege that is not afforded to the majority of our sisters both in the UK and beyond. And the chances are, if you scrutinise your own life, you will find moments where inequality and sexism has impacted on your life: perhaps a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer at a bar. Maybe someone unexpectedly feeling up your arse in a nightclub. Perhaps it is when you feel unsafe walking home alone late at night and so clutch your house keys between your fingers like a makeshift knuckle duster. Or maybe it’s having a man introduce himself to you at a fancy dress party by sliding his hand up your shorts to your pants and asking you who you have come dressed as.

That last one actually happened to me just last week.

Patrick Bateman

Those who know me can probably guess that this party guest did not stay for much longer.

So to finish, a short message to all the women who may have said they do not understand why today is important. We have come so far but we still have so much to do and fight for. We can only do this if we empower one another, lift one another up and are unafraid to point out and shout about all the injustice that exists within the world.

It’s a long and exhausting fight and you will face vocal opposition from the few who benefit from the world’s patriarchal structure. But I promise you it is (and will be) very much worth it.

Concentration Camps and Selfie Sticks

Recently I took a festive trip to Munich with a dear friend of mine. Among the visits to fairy tale castles, festive markets, steins and glühweins, we took a particularly sobering trip to Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau

There are literally no witticisms to be had here.

It is hard to describe quite what visiting a concentration camp is like. The atrocities that took place there are unfathomable and yet they are outlined in unflinching, unceremonious detail. I stood in a large, silent courtyard with snow falling peacefully around me and thought about how just 70 years earlier, in the spot where I was standing, people had been tortured to death simply for being Jewish, Polish, Romany, gay, disabled or outspoken.

While there, it was hard not to contemplate the tense political situation the world currently finds itself embroiled in and to find unsettling parallels. The Nazi’s marked the supposed enemies of their regime by forcing them to wear the Star of David on their clothes. Upon admittance to concentration camps, the skin would be physically branded with a serial number.

Just last month, in November 2015, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump suggested that Muslims in America should logged into a database, so that they can be identified and tracked.

70 years ago, the Nazis published propaganda that painted the Jews as thieves and paedophiles, responsible for Germany’s economic woes in the earlier half of the 20th century. Through doing this, they built a cult of fear around anything associated with being Jewish and positioned Jewish people as one of the enemies of their regime.

Right now there exists a similar fear within certain factions of western society, but it seems to be directed at those with brown skin, anyone who identifies as a Muslim or anyone who is looking to escape their war torn country for a more hopeful existence. It only takes a glance at the comments section on any news or social media site to find people letting their unfounded fear, instead of the facts, inform their (usually astonishingly racist) opinion.

Youtube

I’m looking at you, YouTube. Unfortunately for all of humanity, this ScreenGrab is genuine.* In related news, someone should probably let Niqk Fjaoj know that Judaism and Islam are in fact two separate religions.

So it was with utter disbelief that while at Dachau, I watched a visitor get her friend to take a photograph as she grinned and hung provocatively off of the door to the gas chamber. Feel free to go back and reread that sentence a second time if you can’t quite bring yourself to believe that it really happened.

I am not one of those people who irrationally dislikes selfie sticks, because I am mostly a silly person and I love silly things. But there was something unsettling about seeing them used so frivolously in a place where the murder rate was so high, the Nazis had to build their own crematoria in order to deal with the overwhelming number of dead bodies.

Dachau 2

31, 951 dead bodies, for anyone who would like to be pedantic.

I understand wanting to document an experience and I saw many professional and amateur photographers doing just that during my visit. But I also saw many tourists taking photographs without stopping for a moment to consider where they were and the sheer gravity of what occurred there. I watched grown adults take photographs of themselves smiling inside of an actual fucking gas chamber and wondered how anyone on the planet could lack the self-awareness to realise that such a photograph is in no way appropriate. ‘Hey honey, quick, let’s get a selfie in the gas chamber where the Nazis executed their political opponents. The kids will love this one!’

That is a door real people had to walk through knowing that they were about to be executed, knowing they would never see their loved ones again, knowing that they were just another victim in a war being manipulated by powerful men who never had to fight or suffer in it. But so long as you get your photograph and you can upload it to Instagram for likes, who cares?

I don’t hate social media – far from it. But there’s a time and a place, and I think we can all agree that a concentration camp is most definitely not the place at any time, ever.

The world feels like it is standing on the edge of a precipice; a war of some form has already commenced and as with all wars, the causalities will be mostly innocent people. Visiting a concentration camp should make you think – it should make you reflect on hard, terrible subjects and the nature of humanity, both your own and in the world more generally. It should highlight the importance of freedom and how lucky we are to be born to times and countries that don’t wish to mercilessly persecute us for absolutely reason at all, because that is not a luxury that all people currently have.

It should not, in absolutely any way at all, make you reach for your selfie stick. And if it does, you need to ask someone to slap you and then sit you down until you realise what a colossal idiot you have been.

*ScreenGrab taken from the comments section on M.I.A’s ‘Borders’ music video on Youtube. Well worth a watch/listen. Do yourself a favour though and skip the comments.