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If you clicked the link to this article in a quest for hard facts about what’s happening out there at the moment, this isn’t it. Not today. I have plenty of raw material to work with at the moment, and those stories will come when enough has been done to bulletproof them.

Today, I’d like to talk about another set of facts: the circumstances in which I am operating as a freelance journalist who is, for the most part, working solo. The point of doing so is, as the title of this column suggests, to make a wider point about why I bother. I also like to speak honestly and openly about the struggle of maintaining this project because, though it does come at a great personal cost, it also serves as a reminder of why it is important.

At any given point, I try to maintain active tabs on at least eight to ten stories which vary in complexity, effort required to pull them together, and overall level of risk and potential impact.

Each and every story brings with it its own unpredictable variables – the development of a story might be going well only for something circumstantial to crop up and halt progress for a couple of weeks. A completely dead trail might suddenly come alive like someone set it alight, simply because something in someone’s consciousness somewhere dislodged itself from a state of inertia.

Some weeks will feel like a gambler’s hot streak. Everything falls into place perfectly exactly when you need it to. Sometimes, it will feel like someone built a wall around every line of communication you have and everybody’s none the wiser about your attempts at contacting them. In a country where press freedom has been eviscerated, a whole layer of cloak and dagger must accompany every tidbit of information that trickles in, because everyone is terrified of what might be done to them if they are caught exercising their right to seek representation in the press.

While I am lucky enough to count a few precious colleagues as allies who I can work closely with on specific projects, the reality is that I do miss the camaraderie of a newsroom sometimes, though I hardly miss anything else about it. Working alone is far more difficult, and it is particularly difficult to find the motivation to push yourself to your limit everyday.

Besides juggling several short-term, mid-term, and long-term projects, I also work two to three 12-hour night shifts a week at Richmond Foundation, because I am an experienced mental health recovery officer and I’m damn good at it, and because it is ethical, fair labour that helps me sustain regular income while money trickles in from the fickle, unstable lifestyle of my freelance career. Obviously, hardly closing an eye for three nights a week has a way of taking its toll, but I’d take that kind of work over some god-awful office any time, any day.

Other than the odd fixer job or assignment that crops up every now and then, my income is limited to how many shifts I can squeeze in, and varies wildly. So far, donations from this website have only served to finance the expenses incurred to build it, and even those, not entirely. While I do like to throw a good house party every now and then – because there is no point in waging a revolution if you can’t dance in it – I generally tend to live frugally, travel very little, and often burn out from spending too much time obsessing over work and too little time reminding myself I need to breathe every now and then.

When I set out on this road more than eight years ago, which is when I started seriously involving myself in activism, my primary motivation was sheer anger at how unjust the world around me was (it still is, in case you were unaware). That anger, often appearing on my snarling face as I wielded megaphones in protests like an assault rifle that blasts the state with contempt, eventually became far more corrosive than helpful, because you can only harbour anger in your heart for so long before it eventually explodes.

After a few years, I realised that I also need to sustain this effort with love for those who I care about, the belief that we have the power to shape our future how we want it to be, as arduous as that task may seem. It took a lot of gentle correction from a lot of people who gave me unconditional affection for me to realise just how much powerful we are when we are driven by love, and not anger. It is still an ongoing process, but one which I hope to master over time.

So, back to the question at hand – in a country that seems happy to constantly shoot itself in the foot by electing obviously corrupt politicians to power, why bother yelling out the truth on the rooftops ’til kingdom come? If you read these columns often, you surely know by now that I am extremely intolerant of rhetoric which justifies throwing in the towel in the face of oppression and injustice. That sense of indignation, on its own, is enough of a justification in my eyes. But there’s more to it.

I think from a purely personal perspective, the main reason can be summarised by a George Orwell quote from his book ‘1984’:

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres in your skull.”

In essence, the only real freedom you have in a world that is constantly encroaching on it is what is happening within your inner sanctum, the voice in your head that is you. What will you tolerate within that space? Will you tolerate thoughts of yourself succumbing to the depravities of the mad men who are in power? Or will you accept that your discomfort with the situation at hand is your conscience telling you to get off your ass and do something about it?

That is why I go to these lengths to do what I do without any interference from anyone. That is why this project is entirely devoid of corporate or government financing and will succeed or fail depending on how well I manage to get across its importance to as many readers as possible. Because I’ll be damned if those few cubic centimetres in my skull ever end up being occupied by anything else except by the prime imperative of what I think is in the best interests of the values I believe in.

I bother because ultimately, when I do finally find some time to sleep, I can rest easy knowing that I did everything I can to serve a higher purpose instead of wasting away doing something I hate for the sake of generating more income. I know that when I will look back on all this, I will speak proudly of that time I stood up to be counted, not because anyone else demanded it of me, but because it was my own choice to do so.

To forge your own path in a world full of enforced conformity is the only dignified way to live.

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