I had to go see it for myself. After seeing an image on a localised section of the data feed, I wanted to go and see the source with my own eyes. It would make me angry, I knew, but it would get me out of the hab.
A short walk took me to a designated green-space, not far from where I eke out my days in Lockdown. It has been a salve for the mind through these long months, a place where locals exercise, take a pause, breathe the outdoor air; escaping the small confines of their life in Citadel.
Scraps of paper and plastic carry on the breeze, snagging in bushes that mark the boundaries of this place. A year ago, I barely came here. This year, the area is something akin to a shrine for me. It is a place of natural growth, a place of relative peace. A place that helped save my mind in this long isolation.
Treading past discarded bottles, I cast my eye over the detritus left by others that have also been here. Thin metal cans lie in the grass, bright splashes of colour in the green mark where disposable beakers have been crumpled and tossed aside.
This place, where people rested and ran, where they walked or they lay, was one that offered a sanctuary to the hell of our own minds. Away from the speedways, away from the workloads that invade our every waking hour, this place offered stillness. The hushed rustle of leaves was often the only sound.
The smell of spoiling food carries on the wind, even as the pile comes into view. I confirm the image that I saw on the feed, and it is as bad as it looked. Worse, even, as here in-person it carries a deep sadness along with the stench. No one can look at this and feel proud or accomplished.
The corner of this green-space, one of far-too-few that services our faded lives in Citadel, is piled with bags, discarded wrappings, boxes, cans and bottles. The data feed says that last night a large group gathered, in spite of Lockdown restrictions and in spite of their own safety, to party. They left their waste behind, the offal of their lives, piled here in the open; here, in the short grass where people would take their rest.
There cannot be rest, now. It is not possible to find calm as the crows tear at succulent decay, or as the flies buzz, delighting in the ooze that gathers in this pile of waste. At best, if we are lucky, it will be cleaned up by municipal workers in a week or so – though the state of the wider green-space suggests that it will take a large crew many days. The discarded trash of selfish hedonism has spread widely. Carried by winds, carried by animals, carried and cast away by humans.
And it is here that I feel the keen strike of sorrow. As our world fell this year, bringing our society to its knees, we have often grasped at positive news; the stories of people rising up, proving with their actions that our communities still exist. As our leaders abandon us in labyrinthian rules, forcing our compliance while hiding that they still have their freedom, we looked for hope. As our futures vanish, lost as the last credits are vacuumed from our lives and gathered by those with already-massive wealth, we tried to find some way to say it is still okay. Some kind of warmth and light in the encroaching dark.
Yet there are those that have already given over, heart and soul, to the cult of consumption. They lost the fight for their minds and their integrity long ago, long before lockdown, and they – both now and then – idolise only the need for more. The destruction of anything that gets in the way of them having it.
They glory and revel in their own self-adulation, accolading themselves on a warped scale that they created. They do it for digital platitudes, for popularity among within their cult. As they leer into the stained mirror of their own shallow lives, they feel inconsequential glee as they inflict harm on others. They are a disease on body of humanity, tearing and scratching at their own boiled flesh.
That they did themselves such harm is bad enough, but in their careening destruction, ripping down the world around them, they harm others, too. Where most of us still hope that something will come back, some new world born of this crisis, the cultists saw the end days and they gave up. They will burn us all down in their own need for selfish release.
I often feel that people can come together, finding common links that bridge the gaps between us for the benefit of others beyond ourselves. I often feel that most people, most of the time, are fairly okay. The cracks show in times of strain, of course, when people look to the protection of themselves and their family first, but overcoming this instinct invariably moves humanity forward. It is one of the most extraordinary strengths we have: That we can, even in times of crisis, build for people we don’t yet know or may never know. That we can create benefit for others without needing to see personal reward.
But that is not the case with The Cult.
They have failed to Human.