Sunday, October 9

The end of ignorance

Yesterday a grief-stricken man in Pakistan sorrowfully told a reporter, "I don't know why all these disasters are happening all around the world now."

But these disasters have always been going on; it's just that now many people in Pakistan and other developing countries can see them, thanks to 24/7 satellite TV news coverage. So while my heart goes out to that man I have to tell him: "Welcome to my world."

We here in the United States, the majority of us, were raised on televised images of suffering worldwide. Images of people the world over crushed by Nature's unfolding schedule of events and the cruelty of despotic regimes: drought and flood, earthquake and famine, genocide and mass executions.

Americans watched their TVs then opened their hearts and pocketbooks. Americans gave and gave and gave, regardless of the recipients' race, clan and religious creed. They gave to countless millions of complete strangers, and with no reason for giving other than to help. Most of the givers weren't rich.

That's how it's been for the majority of Americans for about four decades. It's been the same in West Europe. But for most of the world, it has not been that way.

Only very recently have people in the world's poorest countries had a chance to get a wide-angle view of the world -- and only in regions where there is enough freedom for citizens to be allowed satellite TV.

What has this meant? Well, it's meant that people in African and Asian villages knew before Michael Brown that Americans stuck in the Superdome were starving. They watched the horror unfold on their television sets along with Americans watching their TV sets in horror.

It's meant that people in villages in Latin America and the Middle East have sat through testimony of rape victims in Darfur.

It's meant that people throughout the developing world watched in sorrow and sympathy as survivors of the Bam earthquake wept for their dead, and as aid workers pleaded for help in flooded Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

It's meant that the world is watching in suspense and hope as Pakistanis and Indians, and aid workers from around the world, struggle to pull the living from collapsed buildings.

So it's not surprising, if many in the poorest countries are suddenly feeling that something new and horrible is at work in the world. Heck no; if you've been watching TV news for decades you know that killer floods and earthquakes are the normal course of Nature's business. You know that Nature's business is conducted with no attention to humanity's frailties and with no prejudice whatsoever toward our races, clans and creeds.

If you've been watching the nightly news for decades, you can recite chapter and verse one atrocity after another done by humans to other humans around the globe.

The world is not coming to an end. What is ending is humanity's ignorance of just how much suffering is spread around the world.

With the end of ignorance must come a more equitable shouldering of responsibility to pitch in and help during times of trouble. One can always give a little something, even if one can only fold hands in prayer. Many hearts and hands make light work.

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