Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Monday, December 30, 2002  

Why bother?

When there’s going to be a war, rather a blitzkrieg in Iraq? When there is still no end in sight to the Israel/Palestine conflict?

When there’s civil war rending Cote d’Ivoire? Another terrible famine staring Ethiopia down?

When the dead are piling up in Chechnya? Nuclear brinkmanship in North Korea?

Why bother when Venezuela is barely able to prop itself up from collapse?

Why bother when Trinidad’s murder rate keeps spiraling ever upwards? And Tobago’s Aids rate? When our two main racial groups appear to be at the greatest divide they’ve ever known? And politics as usual frustratingly keeps us from any real progress?

Why bother when so much of the world continues to live in absolute filth and squalor, under oppression of one form or another, not really living, but simply existing, in an endless, mirthless sea of misery and suffering, as their parents and their parents’ parents did before them?

Why bother, when every effort, every gesture to try alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, hatred, and conflict worldwide seems piffling and ultimately useless?

Why? Because we have no other choice.

Not if we care, not if we feel that there is a point to it all, which isn’t to let things be, and let them all just work themselves out, or be worked out by (enter munificent deity of choice here). Not if we feel that this world could be a place filled with beauty, with joy, with love.

No. If we feel any sense of duty or obligation – wherever such a sense comes from – to mankind, if we feel at all that happiness, freedom, justice, a good quality of life are not risible ideals but real, attainable qualities that are not just worth fighting for but demand to be fought for, then we have no other choice.

Pope John XXIII (I believe – one does tend to lose track) said the greatest sin of our time was the loss of a sense of sin.

No. Our greatest sin – our greatest failing, rather – has to be our loss of imagination.

Our utter inability to transcend the greed, the jealousy, the prejudices and look to truly find ways to cure all that plagues us. To put truth above all else and strive to maintain it in every aspect of our lives, always. It cannot be that hard, not if we believe that what is right, what is true, as opposed to what is easy, expedient and safe, must be the way to go.

Yet we continue to wallow in apathy, selfishness and stupid sanctimoniousness, unwilling to condemn, willing even to condone what is unfair, what is unjust, what is simply wrong. Too often not by act, but by omission, by silence we let the unthinkable, once, twice, three times happen, and soon we’re wondering how things got to be as bad as they are.

We are all to blame, and we are all to help, if only we’d just use our imagination.

“Few men seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty, quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only because imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what always must be. With good-will, generosity, intelligence, these things could be brought about.” - Bertrand Russell

posted by Jonathan | 11:57 PM 0 comments


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