Perhaps we have become inoculated against shock. Just yesterday I wrote about reacting positively to negative news, instead of distancing ourselves. Maybe we feel impotent in doing anything about it. Maybe there is too much need.
This morning's Times of Malta front page has a photo, with blurred-out face, of a two-year old's body washed up on a Libyan beach. Face up, fully dressed with trousers and a jacket. A non-survivor of Monday's tragedy. Did his parents drown with him, or are they still looking for him? Someone will know soon enough, but few will ever care.
We can fund the LHC so we can accelerate an atom to the speed of light to see what it does when we then smash it, but we can't find €120 million per annum to rescue people in The Med. We can't find the political will to help those fleeing war. We decide which wars to end and which to start based on how well these wars suit our needs. We definitely don't want the even greater cost of accommodating people in our own countries once we've rescued them.
We send space ships to planets and comets billions of kilometers away to find trace elements of water and maybe the origins of life, but the very life before our eyes, those lives being destroyed, we will not do anything for them. They've simply been dealt a bad hand in life. Our cosmic interest is far more important than the well-being of those around us.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Well, the ever-belching news casts make sure that we are not as ignorant as we once were, and therefore not as blissful. It seems people’s reaction is to either make a nod to the suffering, torturous hell, by giving a small donation to an NGO working in the region, or to make some political statement that convicts, from the sofa, the guilty. Another option is to bury one’s head in the sand, by starting to shout really loudly about all the fun, cool, hip things going on in their lives. Or the lives of others. As long as we do not engage with the suffering.
Admittedly, there is little we can do personally in the Ukrainian crisis, or Syria. Well, in Syria, you can try leave on a plane and go join the militias. Pay your money, take your chances. Overall, though, there is an apathy that borders on a pathological blindness towards other people’s problems. Maybe we would help those immediately alongside us, as long as they were one of us. Bad show if we didn’t. But what about the other, the different, the ‘weird’? Well, they can get a small nod. But nothing more.
So our small bubble of bliss is left intact, with shiny stuff reflecting off its inner surface. Our crow-like penchant for sparkly goodies extends to what is inside. If it glitters on the outside, we must glitter on the inside, surely? But when our bubble is threatened, by whatever, but sometimes the other, we start to show what our innards are truly reflective of. Not so shiny stuff.
And this bubble is shrinking. And people will do anything to stay inside the bubble. It won’t last.
But here’s a thought: what if, just maybe, when we step outside of the shiny place and embrace the suffering, the heartache and the problems of humanity, maybe, we find that being in it, although not necessarily peaceful, is a new sort of bliss. The idea of sleeping on the pavement waiting for the latest iproduct, the biggest of all the first world problems, becomes slightly banal at first. Then, if you’re doing it right, it becomes downright disgraceful.
Your new normal, although uncomfortable, is becoming comfortable in a way never imagined. Now, waiting in a queue, not for shiny number 6, but to submit a social housing application in a government to help someone get a better home, or a home to start with, is what normal is about. And it is the start of something revolutionary. A subterfuge of the greatest order.