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盧克·卡門:更傾向於大火的人們

來源:香港物流查詢 | 盧克·卡門  2020年12月11日16:09

仰望羣星,我心知肚明

我走向地獄,星星毫不在乎

——威斯坦·休·奧登

如果説我在2020年學到了點什麼,那就是,天災帶給了我更多的工作邀約。年初我受邀為一份英文報刊寫一篇夏季時森林大火吞噬澳大利亞的報道。到了年底,我則忙於為美國的讀者撰寫關於這場全球大流行疾病對澳洲的影響的文章。現在面對中澳聽眾,我反思作為傳送人間疾苦的文字工作者所經歷的忙碌的一年,我必須説身在澳洲經歷了這一切,我認為這次的全球大流行疾病應該是今年第二場災難。對於大部分澳洲人來説,去年夏天肆虐澳洲東部的森林大火似乎已經是舊聞了,但是我們必須謹記我們剛剛要渡過大火劫難的時候,傳來了新型病毒在遙遠的城市武漢傳播的消息。

如果非要讓我在森林火災和這場流行病之間做出一個選擇,我會同那些選擇森林火災的人們站在一邊。我住在新州中央海岸,就靠近海濱,在那裏,森林火災的影響比對生存的直接威脅更為陰森,更令鼻孔窒息。森林火災帶來了很多新花樣。平時城市上空那片平淡無奇的藍色天空被大都市的有毒氣體所取代;夾雜着大火灰燼的雨水時常光顧,給我們的房子、汽車和户外廁所蒙上一層灰塵和細渣;我們很喜歡使用政府發送的一流技術應用軟件查看火勢的最新發展情況,發現超級大火與強大火勢不斷合併,肆虐大片的土地,驚心動魄。與往常更加不同的是,即將降臨的超自然災難的感覺給我們本來典型的慵懶夏日帶來了一種自發性的、充滿生活情趣的活力。

從文化層面上來講,森林大火使得澳洲獲得了全球的關注。在澳洲文化法典中,存在着一種虛榮心,渴望獲得世界的關注,而在煙霧繚繞的這段短暫的時間裏,世界的目光都聚集在我們身上。我們帶着集體榮譽感為世界做一項基本服務,在全球氣候大災難面前冒着失敗的危險。我們的同胞瀕臨死亡,成千上萬的家園被燒燬,數百萬英畝的森林變成了不毛之地,無以計數的動物葬身火海。而在世界的另一端,像艾倫·德詹尼絲那樣高排位的名人則通過金球獎的一類美國活動送來他們的祝福。數月以來一張張展示我們生機勃勃的城鎮和獨一無二的野生動物(全被烤焦)的照片數月持續地佔據了推特、照片牆和其他社交媒體的版面。森林大火猛烈炙熱,澳洲也因此在世界變得熱門。

也許火災高發期產生的最大的慰藉是它對我們文明社會的影響。説來有些蹊蹺,森林大火展現出了人們無私的一面。那句“為一項美好的事業”的流行詞在每個公共活動上都聽得到。音樂會、派對、舞蹈表演、益智問答晚會、燒烤派對都成為募捐的機會。拿着募捐桶的志願者們出現在各個角落;澳大利亞的每家企業似乎都決心把他們收益的一部分捐贈給那些受火災影響的人們。衝浪者捐出他們的衝浪板,紋身師捐出他們的色料,畫家捐出他們的繪畫作品。即便是那些傳送人間疾苦的作家們也試圖拍賣他們簽名的書籍。所有努力中最有啓發的還屬照片牆的一個模特,她用十澳元一張出售她的裸體照,募集一百萬澳元的捐款。在談到她募集的捐款時,她説道:“我的照片牆賬户被封,我的家人與我斷絕了關係,我喜歡的男人不理睬我,但是管它呢,救考拉熊要緊。”

對澳大利亞人來説,這種積累下來的團結和善意在“新冠病毒”出現的那一刻消失殆盡。病毒在世界蔓延之際,澳大利亞人在超市為了爭搶廁紙和紙巾大打出手。在我的老家,三個身材巨大的女人在一家沃爾沃斯超市分店相互廝打對方的頭部的視頻錄像在網上瘋傳;閉路電視錄像記錄了職業罪犯蹲點超市的卸貨區,舉着尖刀偷竊大批消毒衞生用品;新聞裏報道説小偷們闖入托兒所偷竊消毒洗手液。澳大利亞人崇尚的義氣在那一時之間變成了純粹的個人利益。總理莫里森在一場新聞發佈會上請求澳大利亞同胞們恢復理智,呼籲他們“不要囤貨!我已經講得不能更直截了當了。停止這種行為!囤貨不是我們作為一國之民所應該做的。完全沒有必要。不是人們應該做的!”

我們很快就默認了政府的強制封鎖和限令,但我們也做了很多不光彩的事。有報道稱養老院的有些員工丟下病人不管不顧,讓那些老弱病殘的病人滿身污穢,飽受飢餓;大街上對自己的敵人吐口水成為更為流行的攻擊行為;毒品團伙因為其供應鏈被打斷,為了搶奪地盤,用前所未有的精力飛車槍擊。宗教活動被暫停:基督教堂、猶太教堂和清真寺都關閉了;家人無法參加葬禮或婚禮;孩子們的遊樂場也被關閉;連唱歌也變成了文化禁忌。

森林火災展示了大自然發怒後的嚴重後果,而全球大流行疾病給我們帶來了同樣災難性但更索然無味的詛咒。森林大火得發生,是因為我們對大自然的無視,將我們推向毀滅性的深淵,而大流行疾病則在無形狀態中讓我們認識到我們只不過是捲入這個冷漠的宇宙中極易摧毀的一部分。當然了,正如詩人奧登智慧之言所説:“在地球上,來自人類或野獸的冷漠,是我們最不需畏懼的。”

(翻譯:劉婧琦 校對:韓靜)

Those Who Favour Fire

Luke Carman

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell

- W.H. Auden

If I have learned anything from 2020, it’s that with great calamity comes greater commissions. I began the year with a commission to write for an English newspaper about the fires which engulfed Australia over the summer, and I am ending it writing on the local effects of the pandemic for a readership in the United States. Reflecting, for a Chinese and Australian audience, on what has been a bumper year for professional purveyors of misery, I confess I’ve come to see the pandemic as a ‘second act’ in one contiguous crisis for those of us enduring it all ‘Downunder’. For most Australians, the fires which swept across the country’s east last summer might seem like old news, but we ought to keep in mind that we were only beginning to put that carnage behind us when word reached these shores of a novel sickness spreading in a far-flung place called ‘Wuhan Province’.

If asked by some perverse interrogator which of the two infamies were preferable, the bushfire or this plague, I’d hold with those who favour fire. I live now on the Central Coast of New South Wales, right near the beach, where the effect of the fires was more an eerie, sinus stuffing nuisance than an immediate existential threat. From the fires came many compensating novelties too. Rather than the bland banality of a clear blue sky over our major cities, we enjoyed a more toxic metropolitan haze; we found ourselves treated to regular rains of ash and cinder, a phenomenon providing an insulating layer of soot and dust to homes, cars, and outdoor toilets; and we enjoyed new state-of-the-art government apps, which kept us abreast of exciting new mergers between super-fires and mega-blazes rolling across the country. What’s more, the preternatural sense of impending doom game each day of our typically indolent summer a vitalising air of spontaneity and joie de virve.

In a cultural sense, the fires here also helped put Australia on the global centre-stage. There is a vanity in the Australian cultural constitution which longs for the attentions of the world abroad, and for a brief but smoky period, all eyes were on us. We took a collective sense of pride in serving an essential global service, playing the ‘canary in the mine’ of the

global climate apocalypse. Our people were dying, thousands of homes were destroyed, millions of acres of forest were reduced to wasteland, hundreds of millions of animals incinerated – but on the other hand, celebrities of an Ellen DeGeneres-calibre were personally sending their love to us from premier US events like the Golden Globes; photographs of our vibrant country towns and unique wildlife (admittedly charred) dominated Twitter, Instagram, and other social media telemetries for months on end. The fires were hot, but then so was the country’s relevance.

Perhaps greatest of all the fire-season’s consolations was the effect it had on our civil society. In a strange way, the bushfires brought out the selflessness in people. The catchphrase, “it’s for a good cause” became ubiquitous at every social event: concerts, parties, dances, trivia nights, and barbecues all became opportunities to raise funds. Volunteers with donation buckets materialised on every corner, and every business in Australia seemed determined to give a portion of its proceeds to those affected by the fires. Surfers donated their boards, tattooists their ink, painters give away their works. Even writers – typically purveyors of human misery – tried auctioning off signed copies of their books. The most inspiring of all these acts of charity was the case of an Instagram model who raised $1m by selling her nudes for $10 a shot. Reflecting on the money raised, she said: “My IG got deactivated, my family has disowned me, and the guy I like won’t talk to me. But fuck it, save the koalas.”

For Australians, this accumulated sense of solidarity and goodwill was the first and most dramatic victim of COVID-19’s arrival on our shores.We soon saw Australians brawling in supermarket aisles over toilet rolls and tissue boxes. Footage, shot in my old home town, showing three enormous women battering each other about the head in a Woolworths’ supermarket went viral; CCTV captured career criminals targeting supermarket delivery bays, stealing pallets of sanitary products at knife point; and reports circulated of burglars breaking into child-care centres to steal tubs of hand-sanitiser. Where the mythical Aussie mateship had momentarily been, there strict self-interest was. Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference in which he begged his fellow Australians to come back to their senses, pleading, “Stop hoarding! I can't be more blunt about it. Stop it! Hoarding is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It’s not something that people should be doing!”

We were quick to acquiesce to the mandatory lock-downs and restrictions our government instituted, but we weren’t without individual disgraces. There were stories of workers abandoning nursing home patients, leaving the infirm to starve in their own filth; spitting on enemies in the street became a more popular form of assault; and drug gangs, their supply routes interrupted, took to territorial drive-by shootings with an unprecedented vigour. The sacred, too, was put on hold: churches, synagogues, and mosques shut their doors, families did not attend funerals or weddings, children’s playgrounds closed, and singing became a cultural taboo.

Where the fires had provided a kind of sturm und drang display of nature’s fury, the pandemic presented us with an equally devastating, but more banal curse. Instead of thrusting us into a storied Gotterdammerung against the brute force of nature scorned, the virus forces us to concede, through sheer insubstantiality, that we too are simply another frail and entangled part of an apparently indifferent universe. Then again, as the poet Auden wisely put it: “On Earth indifference is the least, we have to dread from man or beast.”