“Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both our heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I’ve been reading a number of different articles online about how the “old guard” need to shut up and let youth develop their own new ways of doing things and spreading the “let’s stop HIV” message. Some believe that by remembering the past and repeating the stories from oh so long ago, we’re missing the point that young gay men (and newly diagnosed of all varieties) are experiencing a world quite different than us “old guys”.
I rarely weigh into these arguments. I believe they are unproductive and demeaning to everyone involved.
Way back when… there was limited internet, no branding or marketing, no smartphones and communication was slow (we put stamps on envelopes). The gay community in North America was under siege by this new and strange disease that was killing us off in numbers no one could fully comprehend. Back then we developed the kernels that would pop into the current AIDS industry. We fought for treatment and the rights to speak and be involved.
Now, HIV is different. We don’t (or rarely) say “AIDS” anymore. AIDS is an old man’s disease and AIDS is no more… we have pills for that now. Now HIV and “positive living” are the buzz words that I fear may lull us into complacency. Youth may not know the trauma of the past, but they understand the realities that HIV brings to their own tenuous lives.
This much we have in common.
Social media and the internet have brought greater resources to everyone and this is a good thing, but to suggest that the voices of those who were there when countless passed from Pneumocystis or Karposi’s (remember those? If you do you’re old) are insignificant now because things are different and the treatments are better is a spurious argument that only divides us further.
In truth there is only one experience and all of us living with HIV are sharing it. We live, we love, we cope and eventually we die. Whether we die from HIV related illness or old age is not the point. In fact the point is that we continue to live – young and old, we all have our voices to lend to the fabric of the story that is who we are.
Or we can continue to bash each other over the head with pointless discussions direction when there’s really no map in the first place.
When World War II veterans pass on, the country recognizes that one more voice is lost that witnessed something dreadful. What do we do with our veterans? We shrug and go back to Facebook…