Yesterday's 43C day was filled to the brim with hot, windy air that seared at the skin and eyes. Today, there are still over 20 bushfires burning throughout NSW alone. It's so sickening to come home to news like this.
But we also need to talk about the arsonists.
I recently finished Haruki Murakami's 'Underground', which compiles accounts from witnesses of the Tokyo Gas Attack of 1995. Many interviewees were apathetic when questioned about their views of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, but running through their thoughts is also this sense of emptiness and bewilderment - why did they do this? What was the point of killing these strangers?
I guess that's what the overwhelming feeling is when learning about the arsonists. A feeling of helplessness and bewilderment. Simply...why? Why do this? What did they hope to accomplish?
It would be easy to just dismiss these people. Pigeonhole them into the 'other' category - call them 'crazy' or 'malcontents' or even 'just children', shake our heads at them and walk away. But, as Murakami emphasises in Underground, we shouldn't dismiss. We shouldn't look away.
We need to recognise that these people, especially the young teenage boys charged with starting a bushfire that took 2 hours to put out on a day of extreme weather conditions, could have been anyone in society.
They could have been any teenager bursting with misplaced anger at their perceived helplessness and lack of control in society, who took it one step further. They could be someone obsessed with the power of fire - the feeling of the flames and the draw of destruction. They could have been the careless boys tossing a cigarette on concrete in the city, not recognising the magnitude and real, human danger their actions could spark.
They could be anyone in a dark corner looking for that illicit thrill and high that comes with going against the flow and breaking the rules society confines them with. They could simply be apathetic - blank behind the eyes and closed in their worlds; an all too common and uncomfortably relatable sickness.
They could have been anyone.
They may be children, but children grow up. Some children remain children, filled with reckless, dangerous, light numbness of youth that makes it hard for them to appreciate the gravity and weight of mortal lives - human, animals and plants alike. Some children grow up much earlier than society would be comfortable accepting, filled with more dark anger and pain that society might care to understand.
We don't know why, right now. But we need to know. We need to help, in order to prevent.
But as much as I know and appreciate this need to understand and not dismiss, I also think of the sweat and exhaustion of the firefighters who are still fighting as I'm sitting in my comfortable dining room typing this out.
These firefighters, who already have to contend with all that Nature throws our way. Those firefighters being told a group of people they are protecting with their lives has just created another monster that may finally kill them... that's when these actions feel truly and heartbreakingly pointless.