Friday, October 07, 2005

Ignorance is never bliss

Yesterday in my lunch hour I was bombarded with horrendous tv images of yet another natural disaster. Hundreds of people in Central America were dying, helpless and vulnerable in the face of the power of nature.

That was then that the conversation started. It began with the words, "Oh no, not again."

You might be thinking that that is exactly the sort of despairing thought that people all over the globe are currently expressing, seeing once more the mass suffering of others. You might be thinking it marks the start of an outpouring of sympathy. In that case you've misunderstood the sentiment. Easily done, given the levels of empathy most human beings expect from others. A little concern for the rest of mankind is surely part of what makes us human. Isn't it?

But as the conversation bloomed into full scale exasperation and hand waving at the tv screen, it became clear that "Oh no, not again" didn't mean, Oh no, isn't it awful that more people are dying.

It meant, Oh no, do they really have to show us this again? I'm not interested. It's not like it affects me. They're acting as though it's our problem.

Whatever the old platitude might say, I'm a firm believer that charity doesn't begin at home. It begins with the people that need it most. Without wanting to sound like a cliche, we're all citizens of the world. The global villiage. The shrinking earth. Some of you reading this might be thousands of miles away, and that's a good thing, because communication is knowledge, and everything begins with knowledge.

When I see people in despair on the other side of the world, I don't think, Why do I need to know this? I think, Isn't it brilliant that we live in a world where information travels so fast and easily that those of us who are better off are in a position to help? We should be aspiring to make things better for the whole of humankind, not just those people who happen to live the right side of arbitrary national boundaries.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing that can acheive much. I never want to be ignorant of the rest of the world.

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