For the first time since October last year I did not listen to the Sunday politics show on the radio today, nor take my hour long tour of the Sunday newspapers online. I looked instead at the book of Exodus, and the prophet Joel, and psalm 105. I followed all the references to locusts. They have always been the literal or metaphorical destroyers of crops, the economy and nations.
After all these months of work, letter-writing in lobbying campaigns, online rebuttals on social media platforms that have become increasingly nasty, and battling for a democratic voice against the vested interests of even the people who pretended to be on the same side of the argument while it suited them; and also negotiating the minefield of political correctness that drains the energies of everyone working on the same side of the debate; I recognized two weeks ago that I had done everything I could. It was time to stand back.
That did not stop me reading and listening regularly to the news of how the battle was continuing – mainly round and round in decreasing circles – and I have found the utter destructiveness of it all has become too compulsive. It is like a radio soap opera in which the same characters appear every day in increasingly unlikely scenes of badly scripted melodrama, removed from any kind of reality that once drew you to listen to their story. Until you simply race across the room to switch off the radio as soon as the first two or three bars of the theme tune begin to play.
But you are still left with a nagging longing for the thing that had absorbed your interest all this time, so you are tempted to turn it on again. Has anything become clearer, or have the hysterical voices become more modulated and intelligent? No. You know nothing will have changed but you can’t help it now, and you turn on anyway, as you need to shout at the box in the corner to prove you are still relevant to their games.
When you finally realize that you are dealing with a plague of locusts, destroying all in their path, the position becomes a little clearer. You have no democratic voice. There is no argument with a swarm of insects. Why turn on the radio to see whose crops have been devastated today? Why read the newspaper to see the latest expert opinion? They will only tell you there is nothing to be done. It is a plague of locusts. That’s it. End of story.
In the biblical stories of locusts we know only one thing: God promises that the plague of locusts does not last forever. Joel is honest about the damage and the devastation. It feels like it will last forever but it will not. God says, “I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten.”
Meanwhile, I have a growing realization that there is little point in shouting at the radio or trying to make sense of the newspaper. Why add yet more pointless noise to the buzzing din? Why try to make sense of the news pages as they turn to dust in your hands?