It seems to me that we are becoming more and more hardened and weary by the blinders we wear. Though it may be out of sheer survival as we continue to be inundated with the barrage of horrors infiltrating our global village with no end in sight. It's just too overwhelming and too enormous to even know where to begin to search for solutions....war, poverty, hunger, terrorism, abuse, gun violence, gang violence, family violence, dictatorship, child soldiers, child labour, torture.....the list of human driven evil is endless. So, we turn away. We stop reading the newspaper. We turn off the evening news. We rationalize our closed minds by distancing ourselves to the realities that our fellow human beings are facing.
Why havent we learned from even recent world history that this is never the case?
Indifference. "Don't care." "Not interested." "Why bother? I can't do anything about it." "It's not my problem. If they have a problem, why don't they do something about it?" "Nothings stopping them. They made those choices to live there. Let them clean up their own messes." "Let the politicians deal with it. That's why they were elected in the first place." "Did I vote? Why would I bother? They are all criminals anyway. I'm not wasting my time."
Cynicism eats the flesh of our souls. It feeds an "I don't care" attitude. Indifference is the enabler of evil. Just like the buddy who drinks with their alcoholic friend instead of trying to help the friend overcome his addiction, indifferent behaviour is interpreted as consent. Better to stick your head in the sand than to take your turn making a stand?
It's not as black and white as I'm portraying though is it? We may be able to trace this lackadaisical stance to the beginning of time, we are now living in a multi-media ocean of news. It IS too much. It IS mindblowingly awful. We have evolved into a global village where the horrors of Darfur may be a top news story one day only to be shoved off the front page and out of our consciousness by a terrorist attack in Glasgow the next day, followed by bombing in Pakistan, a plane crash in Brazil, and a list of casualities as a result of yet another terror bombing in a village in Iraq. Who can keep up with the conflicts in the Middle East? As much as I try, I am one confused person. And what is completely and utterly lost in the onslaught learning about death and gore and torture? The good.
The good. We dont hear or read enough of it.
The consequence? We tune out just to handle the dooming glooming wicked. Our media thrives because of sensational stories of evil. Though someone must be reading them or watching the news because we are the ones who obviously perpetuate this and expect it, the collective "we" remains passive and indifferent. We are informed and indifferent? It's a vicious circle which has left us feeling impotent. Instead of seeking balance, of learning about some of the good things happening in the world, our constant feed of evil has turned into a sense of learned helplessness. Too may bad guys. Too many bad stories has left us bereft of knowing and understanding the goodness. Just like a victim of abuse, we have lost our confidence in doing something about it. Given that the knowledge and understanding of good and bad, of right and wrong is the essence of our moral construct, it leads me to wonder if our society is clinically depressed. Depression manifests itself by exhibiting indifferent behaviour doesn't it?
So, where do we find the balance? How do we dig out of the depression and indifference which seems to have rendered us incapable of reacting? How do we find the motivational drive to overcome apathy?
Desmond Tutu stated, "Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." That's how he started, right? He wasn't born a famous spiritual and political leader. He started by doing a little bit of good. Look where it got him?
Last week, in the midst of the evil driven news stories was one powerfully positive story which floated to the top....the story which actually instigated this long run-on thought. Stephanie Nolen, an author and journalist who writes for the Globe and Mail on topics mostly related to Africa, but in a manner which always brings whatever story she is writing about right into my own cloistered world and makes me think, wrote a wonderful story about a new group of people called the Elders. Did you hear about them? An excerpt............
"The official order of business Wednesday was the introduction of The Elders: convened at the request of Nelson Mandela, a collection of former leaders that has begun to work together to advance the causes of peace and global justice.
Five Nobel Laureates and a handful of other eminences gathered on the stage in Johannesburg as Mr. Mandela announced that they would seek to fulfill the traditional role of elders in a village, providing wisdom and leadership and attempting to resolve conflicts, taking on everything from climate change to the fighting in Darfur.
A symbolic empty chair was left on stage for Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist who will join the group when she is free of government-imposed house arrest in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). But as the Elders sat in a row and spoke about their very serious work, a current – of irreverence, of resilience, of what looked very much like joy – kept bubbling up through the formality. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chairs this elders' council, voiced the true theme of the gathering: “Goodness will prevail.” here is the link to the rest of the story
Abraham Heschel was right. Indifference is the opposite of good. He learned this as a strong opponent of racism and war, as a man and a religious leader who walked alongside Martin Luther King and who stated that when he was marching against the savagery of racism, his legs were doing his praying. His moral compass fed his action. As ours must do too. A little good at a time and we will overwhelm the world.
ps. Wicked is the prompt this week from sunday scribblings......