Although bias naturally enters my thoughts when I am self-critical, I hope it never does to such an extent, that it overcomes honesty, or the deep-seated desire to make the world a better place. A better place than the one I lived in during my childhood and as a young adult.
I recall that we were told to greet our elders, that we “had to” help people if we were able, who needed it, but foremost in my mind is that we had to have empathy. Not only verbalize empathy by offering platitudes such as, sorry because that’s simple enough, but to act upon “empathy” and turn it into a verb, an action rather than mere mouthing of pleasantries.
I have come to realize that the world as I viewed it, though cruel, and through the lenses of a person growing up during Apartheid, was far from the cruelty I had seen in people. I made a concerted undertaking to look for the good in humans and surround myself with like-minded people.
This, however, has changed as I have grown older. I found it extraordinarily hard to believe that the world is as I “believed” it to be. I thought evil and selfishness resided in most people due to my activism work. I was mistaken because most people, irrespective of their social standing, the colour of their skin, gender and so on, are good people, not the “monsters,” I thought they were.
There still existed good people doing good things to help and uplift others, but it never seemed to be enough. Two explanations are glaringly obvious, and that is 1. The evil people that do exist, though fewer than the good ones are rambunctious and 2. Sadly, most of the “good” people are filled with apathy.
Because “evil people” are highlighted far too much across all “platforms of communication,” I chose not to add to it by giving it more airtime. I did so not because I think it doesn’t exist if I didn’t highlight their deeds, but, primarily because countless people work tirelessly to expose them and bring them to account for their misdeeds.
I wanted to direct this article at the apathetic people, the neutral people, the “Switzerland’s” of humanity. Your choice to remain silent, or indifferent to what is happening, because evil has not personally affected you, or wrapped all the good you feel within its tentacles like an octopus does a container it discovered, is an action or rather inaction. And this inaction, can’t be seen as good, but evil; albeit an unconscious or subconscious evil.
Should you hear someone screaming in agony, and discover it’s your neighbour, do you feel propelled into action that can assist them by enquiring what’s happening, phoning emergency services trying to get help, or is it easier to put up the volume of your tv, so it doesn’t disturb you? And if you feel nothing but a mild annoyance that your peace has been disturbed, then how “good,” does that make you?
What if the next screams emanated from your home, and the neighbours surrounding you, were as indifferent by turning up the volume of their tv’s?
During this pandemic, we have discovered, that all people can be and are negatively affected by it, whether healthwise, financially, mentally and so forth. Have you spared a thought for the ordinary workers that have to travel from townships, exposing themselves to the same virus we all fear because you are upset that the beaches are temporarily shut down or that your favourite restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol? When those workers contract the virus and are unable to work for 14 days due to quarantine, what happens to those places then? Do you understand that though we all need money to survive, the reality is that people are dying? Or do you try to justify this by saying people will die because of poverty anyway? And though this is true, how would you feel to be in that person’s position? Are those the actions of “good people” who care and place people above profits?
Why is the apathy sweeping our world, only moved when there is interest convergence? In other words, why do you feel compelled to action only when you are personally affected by it?
There are dollar billionaires who care about nothing more than their bottom line, and nothing for their workers but, instead, of us as people banding together to assist those workers, we proudly announce our purchases from places like that? Imagine what could happen if we all got together to boycott those businesses thereby “forcing” the owners to make real changes for their workers and less of the almost “vulgar” profits we have come to know of. I am not referring to small or family-owned businesses but corporate giants.
As humans, we proudly announce the names of these wealthy people. as if they arrived in that state by their own hands, unassisted! Do you know or care to know the employees’ names tirelessly working at those businesses, or is it only “important” that they stock the item or product you require? When you become aware of the wage they earn, do you boycott the business, or continue to enrich the billionaires who already control so much of the world?
Imagine if, as humans, we could effect change and we choose not to!
Healthcare workers the world over, are dying like flies around us, yet you moan that we have to sanitize or wear a mask? There is no social distancing because “no Government is going to tell you what to do!” Yet, it’s the people on the ground, at the forefront, the first responders, that are at risk, not Governments. It’s people that are your neighbours, family members, friends, those that have families that are doing this to help us, not themselves. Yet, “good people,” don’t want to be inconvenienced by changing simple things in their lives, including social distancing!
Lack of action or inaction is an action!
You have taken a stance to do nothing. That is an action! Do not be surprised because of your inaction when most of the world consisting of “good people,” remains enslaved by the minority of “evil people.” It’s not the power that the evil people have but the willingness of us as “good” humans to maintain that power structure.
Our empathy has become engulfed by our apathy.
“It is always easier to do nothing than to try a new line of action.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
“Inaction may be the biggest form of action.”