Monday, November 16, 2015

Lets widen our net of Empathy

"It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge." - Charles de Gaulle

I start with that quote because it's the first time since Friday that I've heard something that has made sense to me. I am left confused and with a lot of questions.

October 2 – 18 dead – suicide bomb – Nigeria
October 5 – 57 dead – car bomb - Bagdad, Iraq
October 10 – 102 dead – suicide bombs – Turkey
October 10 – 38 dead –suicide bombs –Chad
October 14 – 42 dead – suicide bomb – Nigeria
October 23 – 27 dead – bomb – Nigeria
October 23 – 22 dead – suicide bomb – Pakistan
October 31 – 224 dead – suspected airplane bomb – Egypt
November 12 – 43 dead – suicide bomb – Lebanon
November 13 – 19 dead – bomb – Bagdad, Iraq
November 13 – 137 dead – bomb/shooting – Paris

These are the attacks I could find in the last month and half where more then 15 civilians died – I left out the 100s that were injured.  It includes an attack the same day as Paris.

What's been niggling my mind is why Paris has taken center stage. Why haven’t we shown as much empathy, concern and solidarity with all the other civilians as they went about their daily life?

As I set up for a yoga class on Sunday, I heard someone behind me tell someone he had two friends killed at the concert. So is it that there are less degrees of separation between us and people in Paris?  Or is it that Paris is systematically closer to us? Or geographically closer (but not much)? 

Or is it that Parisians represent a similar ratio of race, religion and culture to us? Is our empathy racist?

Or maybe our empathy just has limitations. Maybe we only have a certain amount of empathy and save if for certain circumstances?

Granted that ubiquitous coverage of the Paris attacks leaves us little option but to pay attention, but I do think the scale of coverage represents something we ask for, not a pro-active decision by the media.

Perhaps our net of empathy is growing and in time it will find its way to the further corners and cultures of this planet. I mean not long ago, it would have taken days for the Paris news to get to us, and without the detail we might have cared less. There was also a time not long ago when this would have been a blip on the radar of death by humans. In fact in some of those far away places, violence is still taken for granted.  Do we take it for granted in those places just like the people who live there?

Im with De Gaulle! And I'll add, over half a century later that better humanity has emerged. As our net of empathy grows, the violence will continue to subside. 

And then one day as Carlos Santana sings “One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.”

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