There is a dark and uncontrollable panic which is the sole domain of those who observe horrific events from the periphery. With the blindness of distance fear is intensified through the prism of our imagination. It is added to by all the things we don’t know as much as it is founded on the few things we do know. So it was in our country, our distant Southern Islands as word reached us of a war breaking out in the Northern Hemisphere. We feared for those embroiled in the conflict and feared for those yet to be embroiled. We had unspeakable visions and felt deep regret for the kinds of deaths people would be dying and we felt sorrow at the decrepit state of affairs which had arisen to manifest as war in a particular moment and in a particular place. Our fear was compounded by the very likelihood of the war’s escalation. In this war the first real site was in Palghat, Western India, where a nuclear bomb detonated above the ground killing more than a million people in the blast alone. As the war grew from this one event we saw images of it framed within countries but in a war there is no voice of reason, only the parochial call of catch-cries. The immediacy of the internet suddenly limited our ability to gain a clear general picture of a growing war. There were too many personal stories.
We knew of a war but we could neither see nor hear it, and we did not know where it would stop. In accordance with our fears the escalation was swift, and it soon became clear the Southern Hemisphere would be drawn in. Reports soon circulated that the US had intercepted a nuclear device targeting an Australian site. That was close enough.
But from within a war is not an endless theatre of destruction and danger. From within a war not even death is feared in the same way it is from outside. Inside you are already in its midst, seeing it and experiencing it. It is no longer possible to concern yourself with the impact of this conflict on the wider community. Community subsumed within survival.
Inside a war ordinary people and soldiers alike are driven by necessity to gruesome deeds they would otherwise despise or find too demanding, the pure necessity masking instincts of fear and morality. But from outside there is only fear and no action can be taken to allay that fear. It simply grows and grows. Exhilaration is experienced in the midst of events, mixed with adrenalin and hyper-sensitivity. But on the periphery it is fear, a powerful concoction of anticipation and of creations from our imaginations which know no limits.