A thought occurred to me today. It happened after I logged onto Facebook and saw that I had 23 requests to join various groups whose main purpose was to show all our friends that we really care about this planet and the people on it. Groups along the lines of “show you are against world hunger” and “Help the people in Japan”.
Now I think it’s great that people are aware of the troubles we all face today and it’s great that we can feel sorry for people who have to go through horrific events, but my question is, do we really, truly care about these people.
It sounds very nice to say things like “Shame, look at that homeless man on the street, isn’t it terrible?” and “Wow did you hear what happened in Libya, how awful!”. But by saying these things, as well as joining groups that say these things, does not mean we really care, it just means we are aware that these situations are horrible and we feel bad for those people. If we truly cared we would do something about it.
When I say do something about it I don’t just mean giving the homeless guy your leftover fries, or standing at Wits and shouting at random people that the war in Israel/Palestine must stop. I mean really doing something. Mother Theresa cared, she actually did something. For us (I assume that most of the people at Wits are not living in poverty) to sit in our fancy homes with DSTV and internet and say that we really care is the same as saying we hate the government and not voting.
We can feel empathy for people in bad situations but unless we actively do something we cannot for one minute say we actually care.
Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Inherently, as humans, our only obligation is to care for ourselves and care for our family. If we choose to care for other people we are going above and beyond our basic expectations but we have no obligation to rush off to Fukushima to move debris around. So don’t feel bad if you didn’t. But don’t join a Facebook group or a society at varsity and claim to be a humanitarian because you are not fooling anyone.
By not caring does not mean we can treat other people badly. So by not caring I’m not a bad person or a criminal. I can still express my empathy for the Libyans and others but the truth is I don’t really care about them, and unless you are selling your TVs and expensive clothes to buy a ticket to Tripoli to help them, you don’t care about them either.
Now I wish we all really did care. The world would be a much better place. But we like our things. We like going to Clapham Gold and spending 20 bucks on a drink and buying clothes and eating at nice restaurants. We don’t want to give up our luxuries to help those who don’t have them. If you are the exception, good for you! You are a better person than I am. But if you don’t give away your possessions and money, don’t worry. You are only human.