A Still Tongue: Reacting to a World in Terror

Since we first founded Secret Cave, an enormous amount of widely publicised terrorist attacks have taken place. Tributes and reactions drown social media in their wake. In tandem, mainstream news outlets explode with coverage. Obviously, both of these things are understandable. We need reports and trusted sources on events. Otherwise, we’d live in a medieval world of ignorance. Likewise, it can be affirming to see the support and solidarity that comes with sharing our despair through platforms like Twitter or Facebook. It provides a crutch of community that can negate the inherent fear and shock that affects us all.

Why, then, does Secret Cave choose to consciously eschew mention of any terrorist attacks? Why is our Twitter, which we keep active daily, conspicuously free of our own tributes? There are several answers to these questions. Now, following last night’s unsettling incident in Las Vegas, I believe it’s time to explain this decision on our part. The necessity of this piece first struck me when publishing a tweet – through @_secretcave just hours after Stephen Paddock killed over fifty innocent festival goers. My tweet, which I didn’t follow through with, concerned the still photography of Adam Volerich. It seemed insensitive somehow; perhaps even selfish. My conflict in that moment inspired me to write this, which I hope will go some way to establishing our stance.

The roots of my shame in a tweet about photography came, essentially, from peer pressure. In the aftermath of devastating terrorism, Twitter teems with perspective. Examples like Paddock’s attack can even ignite some valid discussions, such as conversations about gun control. By making my only tweet of the day a spotlight on a talented artist instead, am I not making a statement of nonchalance? My greatest worry was in sending out such a message. I have no desire to paint Secret Cave as a cold dwelling, free from empathy. Unfortunately, to many timeline scrollers, that may be how it’s received. Though I feel an overwhelming disgust for the actions of Paddock, and those like him, making no comment could be interpreted in several presumptuous ways.

The most important reason why we keep quiet is a lack of authority. With no first-hand experience to inform us, we can add nothing to expand on the fine work of dedicated reporters. To follow on from that, whatever missives we could pen contemplatively would be thoroughly unhelpful. Detached from the pure tragedy of terrorism, what could Benjamin and I contribute to such a delicate situation? We have no relevant perspective; no appropriate observations. The mere thought of a single person finding offence or discomfort in our words at such a time makes my skin crawl. Our woe-soaked deliberations are best held in private, where they won’t taint anyone else’s turmoil. As such, making a post here at the domain illustrating our feelings is unthinkable.

Would a short tweet, or similar, expressing support and sadness not be a better option? After all, weighing in with more innocuous, truncated recognition would include us in the aforementioned solidarity that dominates the internet. Such a natural public consensus is crucial, and something I applaud. Yet, there’s something of merit in taking another path. We all understand that, when we die, the planet must continue on its relentless rotation. In truth, we’d all like fitting sendoffs from those we’d touched when alive. None of us, except those narcissistic in the extreme, would expect our local branch of McDonalds to shut up shop for the day.

Our silence on terrorism, natural disasters and other atrocities reflects that. If we planned a promotional tweet for an artist’s creation, there’s no shame or disregard of pain in publishing it. In fact, it’s a quiet indication of a steadfast determination. In the face of mass murder, hurricanes, nuclear war and whatever else threatens us, we choose to focus on our output. This isn’t out of shoulder-shrugging apathy, or blinkered personal hedonism. I’ve discussed this topic with Benjamin on many occasions, and our silence echoes more than the lazy assertion that Earth must “keep on truckin'”. At least, so I hope.


Creativity, our most profound interest, is often fuelled by the darkness we harbour. At no point since mankind’s cerebral evolution has such expression dried in response to abomination. If anything, there’s evidence to suggest that the reverse is true. Our imaginations are flared by the presence of strife, and escape can manifest in the pages of a book, or the comfort of melody. As one of the foundations on which we built Secret Cave, a reverence for creative intuition will always be among our highest priorities. Only that way can we offer any comfort, even in the slightest, at times of toxic tumult. Besides this unique look at our standpoint, it would be better for us to act as a distraction; never a reminder.

Finally, to commemorate one terrorist attack is to disregard countless others. On a monthly basis, the number of attacks regularly exceeds one-hundred. Of course, many of these occur with barely a blip on social networks. This is nobody’s fault, except maybe the media’s, but nonetheless true. A holistic approach is the only ethical way for Secret Cave to offer such tributes. How unfair would it be of us to give accolades to only a handful of victims? Here, we consider all death to be equally deserving of grief.

Death is the inevitable conclusion to a thermodynamic miracle. It stops the clock, and steals the fleeting majesty of biology. Consciousness is the universe’s finest light; its end the opus of remorse. Death is also the tears of a child, left alive with the empty loss that follows. It’s a wife, or husband, yearning the embrace of arms that once warmly reassured; taken from them by the violent whims of the worst emotional avarice. It remains our only absolute truth, and it always demands respect. A still tongue, and gritted teeth, is simply our way of showing it.

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