用户登录

中国作家协会主管

卢克·卡门:更倾向于大火的人们

来源:四川作家网 | 卢克·卡门  2020年12月11日16:09

仰望群星,我心知肚明

我走向地狱,星星毫不在乎

——威斯坦·休·奥登

如果说我在2020年学到了点什么,那就是,天灾带给了我更多的工作邀约。年初我受邀为一份英文报刊写一篇夏季时森林大火吞噬澳大利亚的报道。到了年底,我则忙于为美国的读者撰写关于这场全球大流行疾病对澳洲的影响的文章。现在面对中澳听众,我反思作为传送人间疾苦的文字工作者所经历的忙碌的一年,我必须说身在澳洲经历了这一切,我认为这次的全球大流行疾病应该是今年第二场灾难。对于大部分澳洲人来说,去年夏天肆虐澳洲东部的森林大火似乎已经是旧闻了,但是我们必须谨记我们刚刚要渡过大火劫难的时候,传来了新型病毒在遥远的城市武汉传播的消息。

如果非要让我在森林火灾和这场流行病之间做出一个选择,我会同那些选择森林火灾的人们站在一边。我住在新州中央海岸,就靠近海滨,在那里,森林火灾的影响比对生存的直接威胁更为阴森,更令鼻孔窒息。森林火灾带来了很多新花样。平时城市上空那片平淡无奇的蓝色天空被大都市的有毒气体所取代;夹杂着大火灰烬的雨水时常光顾,给我们的房子、汽车和户外厕所蒙上一层灰尘和细渣;我们很喜欢使用政府发送的一流技术应用软件查看火势的最新发展情况,发现超级大火与强大火势不断合并,肆虐大片的土地,惊心动魄。与往常更加不同的是,即将降临的超自然灾难的感觉给我们本来典型的慵懒夏日带来了一种自发性的、充满生活情趣的活力。

从文化层面上来讲,森林大火使得澳洲获得了全球的关注。在澳洲文化法典中,存在着一种虚荣心,渴望获得世界的关注,而在烟雾缭绕的这段短暂的时间里,世界的目光都聚集在我们身上。我们带着集体荣誉感为世界做一项基本服务,在全球气候大灾难面前冒着失败的危险。我们的同胞濒临死亡,成千上万的家园被烧毁,数百万英亩的森林变成了不毛之地,无以计数的动物葬身火海。而在世界的另一端,像艾伦·德詹尼丝那样高排位的名人则通过金球奖的一类美国活动送来他们的祝福。数月以来一张张展示我们生机勃勃的城镇和独一无二的野生动物(全被烤焦)的照片数月持续地占据了推特、照片墙和其他社交媒体的版面。森林大火猛烈炙热,澳洲也因此在世界变得热门。

也许火灾高发期产生的最大的慰藉是它对我们文明社会的影响。说来有些蹊跷,森林大火展现出了人们无私的一面。那句“为一项美好的事业”的流行词在每个公共活动上都听得到。音乐会、派对、舞蹈表演、益智问答晚会、烧烤派对都成为募捐的机会。拿着募捐桶的志愿者们出现在各个角落;澳大利亚的每家企业似乎都决心把他们收益的一部分捐赠给那些受火灾影响的人们。冲浪者捐出他们的冲浪板,纹身师捐出他们的色料,画家捐出他们的绘画作品。即便是那些传送人间疾苦的作家们也试图拍卖他们签名的书籍。所有努力中最有启发的还属照片墙的一个模特,她用十澳元一张出售她的裸体照,募集一百万澳元的捐款。在谈到她募集的捐款时,她说道:“我的照片墙账户被封,我的家人与我断绝了关系,我喜欢的男人不理睬我,但是管它呢,救考拉熊要紧。”

对澳大利亚人来说,这种积累下来的团结和善意在“新冠病毒”出现的那一刻消失殆尽。病毒在世界蔓延之际,澳大利亚人在超市为了争抢厕纸和纸巾大打出手。在我的老家,三个身材巨大的女人在一家沃尔沃斯超市分店相互厮打对方的头部的视频录像在网上疯传;闭路电视录像记录了职业罪犯蹲点超市的卸货区,举着尖刀偷窃大批消毒卫生用品;新闻里报道说小偷们闯入托儿所偷窃消毒洗手液。澳大利亚人崇尚的义气在那一时之间变成了纯粹的个人利益。总理莫里森在一场新闻发布会上请求澳大利亚同胞们恢复理智,呼吁他们“不要囤货!我已经讲得不能更直截了当了。停止这种行为!囤货不是我们作为一国之民所应该做的。完全没有必要。不是人们应该做的!”

我们很快就默认了政府的强制封锁和限令,但我们也做了很多不光彩的事。有报道称养老院的有些员工丢下病人不管不顾,让那些老弱病残的病人满身污秽,饱受饥饿;大街上对自己的敌人吐口水成为更为流行的攻击行为;毒品团伙因为其供应链被打断,为了抢夺地盘,用前所未有的精力飞车枪击。宗教活动被暂停:基督教堂、犹太教堂和清真寺都关闭了;家人无法参加葬礼或婚礼;孩子们的游乐场也被关闭;连唱歌也变成了文化禁忌。

森林火灾展示了大自然发怒后的严重后果,而全球大流行疾病给我们带来了同样灾难性但更索然无味的诅咒。森林大火得发生,是因为我们对大自然的无视,将我们推向毁灭性的深渊,而大流行疾病则在无形状态中让我们认识到我们只不过是卷入这个冷漠的宇宙中极易摧毁的一部分。当然了,正如诗人奥登智慧之言所说:“在地球上,来自人类或野兽的冷漠,是我们最不需畏惧的。”

(翻译:刘婧琦 校对:韩静)

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.”