November 8, 2021, San Diego– A lot of the conversation with friend, J, at Harpoon Henry’s Restaurant, in Dana Point, had to do with self-assessment and self-accounting. This was my first visit with her in two years, due to both the pandemic and the current circumstances of her life. J and I normally walk a bit along a beach of her choosing- Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point being her favourites. For the time being, such walks are on hold, but it was a good time for catching up. We agreed that it has been quite a year, all around. There have been ongoing debates and recriminations passed around, unwitting public figures being drawn into the limelight and a penchant for name-calling taking the place of people owning their decisions and the resulting behaviours. Through all the negativity, the pandemic continues, albeit in a slowly diminishing manner and responsibility takes a vacation-not in the beach towns, but at large public events.
Astroworld’s hip hop concert, over this past weekend, ended in horrific fashion, with eight people being crushed to death, and dozens more injured, in a stampede. There are further intimations of people being jabbed by hypodermic needles, laced with illicit drugs, at certain points during the Travis Scott concert. The performer himself couldn’t hear people calling for assistance for those injured or dying, until it was too late.
It is time for musicians, performance artists- and politicians to take stock, not only of how their words and actions immediately affect their audiences, but also how these infest the muscle memory of significant segments of society. Travis Scott cannot bring back his dead and injured fans-nor is he, alone, likely to curb the increasing tendency towards lurching towards abandon, when crowds of people are whipped into a frenzy. Astroworld should be a wake-up call for people to exercise restraint and look out for those around them. In the same way, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, North Charleston each should have been a wake-up call for curbing the access by mentally ill people to firearms.
The solution is spiritual. J and I each have chosen different paths to the sacred. Yet, both of us have found that sacred, in a way that makes sense to us, as individuals. It would have been all too easy, at least for me, to embark on acts of throwing caution to the wind-and giving vent to the wildest of urges-had I not been raised to act in a conscientious manner. Even so, trial and error have taken their toll, though thankfully not in a manner that was injurious or lethal to another human being. I can credit belief for the fact that such tendencies have gradually faded.
My heart always aches for those who suffer, needlessly, in events that go awry or where destruction is intended. The stampede at Astroworld and the apartment collapse in Lagos, also this weekend, are only the latest examples of the consequence that accrues, when we do not-even for the briefest of times, look upon the well-being of our neighbours with the same vigilance that we look upon our own.