The images we see nightly on the TV news reveal the appalling scenes of brutality, suffering and horror that seem to be the lot of so many unfortunates living on planet earth. Whether the events are occurring in the countries of the Middle East or in rickety boats on the Mediterranean Sea, the effect is the same – horror, despair and a paralyzing sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homes, abandoning their possessions in order to clamber over fences or drift in rickety boats, throwing themselves on the mercy of the sea and other countries as they abandon lives that seem to them to be either dangerous or unbearable or both. Migrants all over the world are risking life and limb, resorting to desperate and dangerous methods, in order to escape from their current situation.
Since time immemorial wars have periodically ravaged the Middle East, though just now Israel is not actively involved in any of them. Some people may even gain satisfaction from seeing Arab countries being torn apart by internal conflicts, but I am not among them. What I see are communities being fragmented, families destroyed and individuals condemned to a lifetime of suffering, essentially forced into a stone-age existence. Why should I wish that on anyone? Especially when I am able to benefit from all the comforts of modern life?
I know that the striking images and heart-rending scenes in the news form a kind of nightly reality entertainment programme for the well-fed world. I know, too, that many kind people donate money and resources to help those unfortunates, but it is often too little too late, coming after the irreparable damage has already been done.
Obviously, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions also attract the attention of the world, and intrepid reporters and photographers rush to these places in order to send the distressing images back to the rest of the world. The same goes for mining disasters, forest and bush fires and floods of various kinds. It is, I suppose, something to be proud of that humankind has developed resources to cope with such disasters.
But all the same, it makes me feel guilty and ashamed to be sitting in a pleasant room typing this, with a full belly, books at hand and music on the radio when so many people are still suffering hunger, discomfort and the imminent threat of death.
It’s as if we’re living in a parallel world, and as everyone knows, parallel lines never meet.