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The unbearable lightness of pause

by Gayan Abeykoon
November 20, 2023 1:12 am 0 comment
Pauses can be used to survey the work of so-called pause-givers

Pause. It is a word that has lost its weight. It is not subject to the laws of gravity. It is supposed to be time-bound but it is in fact shackled to deceit and brutality. A word that implies interruption, break and step-back that is now a code-word for endless horror.

Give me a sec. Give me a minute. People request such things. Figures of speech. Typically the particular person is attending to something and wants a bit of time to finish it. The minute or second giver doesn’t have to wait for hours. Not even 10 minutes. So ‘minutes’ or ‘seconds’ are given.

We have minutes to give, need we talk of seconds? We have hours to spare, but not always. There are hour-slices which can add up to a lot of time. This we can give. Sometimes of course the hours, minutes and seconds are not actually taken. And that which is taken is sometimes ‘given’ as though it’s a gift, some unnerved token offered out of the giver’s magnanimity.

Let’s make it manageable. Do you have a day to spare? Do you need someone to spare you a day? If it’s a time game that’s being played and you hold the cards, can the quantum of generosity be measured as the result of take and give?

I am thinking of hours. I am thinking of 24 hours. That’s 1,440 minutes. I am thinking of 20 hours. That’s 1,200 minutes. I am thinking of four hours. That’s 240 minutes. I am thinking of taking and giving. I am thinking about the narratives of fair exchange.

Four hours. That’s 240 minutes. One would think it is a lot of time. It is. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you had 28 hours instead of 24 every day. All those things you could and would do if only you had just a few minutes would get done. Right?

Doesn’t happen that way. If there’s space, it gets filled. If there’s time, it gets filled with things to do. Still, it is fun to think of a 28 hour day with four extra hours when you would not be encumbered by 24-hour chores, isn’t it?

Well, not everyone has that privilege. We can keep things real for there are real 4-hour breaks, believe it or not.

Pause. No, I’m not asking you to ‘stop and reflect.’ Pause is a political term. A military term. It refers to a call for a halt in relentless bombing and ground attacks (but not necessarily turning the switch off on regular instruments that color sequestering such as blockades, denial of electricity, gasoline, water and everything possible to hinder treatment of patients in hospitals).

A four-hour ‘pause’ has been called. There are claims that this pause will be observed.

First things first. A call for a pause (and not a complete halt) might be seen by some as a victory for humanity and there’s no doubt that relief of any kind is good. Nevertheless, it is essentially a green light for ‘business as usual’ 20 hours of the day.

Even if we were to go with the ‘better than no pause’ narrative, the truth is that ‘pause’ has not translated from word to deed. But let’s assume it has. What then would one do with those four hours?

I wouldn’t know. I am not at this moment living in a place that’s been bombed for more than a month on a daily basis. I have not had to watch loved ones die in hospitals simply because there’s no medicine or because life-saving surgery is not an option; indeed I am not in a hospital watching fellow-parties suffer and die even as I contemplate imminent death. I don’t have to worry about phone battery dying, knowing that it will and once it does I will not be able to tell the world what’s happening around me. Forget mobile devices,

I don’t have to spend my pause-hours and other hours digesting the terrible news of someone close having been killed. I don’t have to look for the remains of a child, sibling, parent, other close relative, friend or a neighbor in the rubble of a building that had just collapsed following intense bombing. I don’t have to contemplate the terrible complicity of people talking about pauses that are not. I don’t have to reflect on pauses called for and accepted which, in fact, endorse crimes against humanity. I am not the recipient of the concrete execution of stated genocidal intent. I don’t have to note the irony of pauses that are not and if they actually were real are used by those who are said to pause to plan the theft of my land, evict and execute me.

So, let’s think about ‘give me a sec’ and ‘do you have a minute?’ If you don’t have a sec or a minute, think about the hours of pause and what people can and cannot do in this scandalous interim.

Pause. It is a word that has lost its weight. It is not subject to the laws of gravity. It floats like shop-talk and badly written footnotes that have escaped under-lines to hobnob with devils who would have us believe they are angels.

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