…here is what I don’t understand—what I, at this point, admittedly refuse to understand—while 90-year-old babushkii are on the news sobbing because they’ve lost literally everything they have in these fires, motorists and passersby in these parched, burning regions are continuing to flick their disgusting, smoldering cigarettes out their windows without a care. I wish I could just attribute this to some biased media fancy on the BBC’s part, but I depressingly have to admit that I know better.
There was a point in my life when I thought I could at least try to sympathize with the anger and the disenfranchisement of individuals here who’ve decided—if to their own detriment—that they just can’t be bothered to care. One of the most memorable experiences I had in Vladivostok two years ago was sitting in the back seat of a gypsy cab driven by a young man with his girlfriend. It was a mayoral election year, and part of the United Russia candidate’s campaign included billboards calling for a kind of “Green Watch” among the citizens to beautify the city and make it more environmentally friendly. As we careened down the hill toward one of these billboards, the young man slowed down, piled all the trash he had in car together, chucked it, laughing bitterly, at the sign, and drove away. It horrified me. It broke my heart. It made me want to understand.
But now—I don’t know if it’s the lightheadedness I’m feeling from the smog or the cumulative physical and psychological exhaustion of four sleepless weeks— I just can’t. If people want to light the fires of their own hell, I don’t really know what I can actually do to understand it. I don’t know anymore that I want to. One can only sleep so long undisturbed.