HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 27, 2014 – 12:00am
There are many people I know who are in a near catatonic state over what is going on in the world.
They are the walking wounded, depressed and stunned and close to shock, living with a deep pain, a feeling of helplessness, as the news gets more depressing each day.
There is that awful war in Syria that has decimated its population. It has been going on for a couple of years with no resolution in sight.
The Ukraine is in crisis. A Malaysian Airlines plane was recently shot down by Russian-supported rebels who have access to sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons of destruction from Russia. As many as 298 lives were snuffed out in that crash.
Israel has not stopped bombing Gaza where, to date, over 700 have been killed, many of whom are women and children.
In Iraq, the ISIS terrorist army is taking control of the country. In Uganda, gays struggle with a new law that has been passed declaring homosexuality illegal under pain of death. Meanwhile, China is saber rattling and scaring its neighbors with hegemonic designs on their territories. And the economies of Europe are in near shambles.
One gets the feeling that hardly anything is right in the world.
I feel my heart getting weary and hopeless. I know many people my age feel the same way. After all, we are the baby boomer generation who just want peace, love, harmony and all that is good in the world. Many of us still hold these ideals close to our hearts.
And as we enter into our twilight years, we see many things that our generation built, which we thought helped promote a better, more peaceful world, just crumbling to waste.
In their place, we see dead bodies strewn about, refugee camps, prejudice, violence even against women and children, intolerance, destruction everywhere. We are also seeing the return of dictatorship and fascism in many places.
What happened? How have things gone wrong with the world?
Some people have become so short on patience and tolerance and so fixated on avenging perceived historical injustice. There seems to be a hardening of positions everywhere. In the realm of religion, many Christians and Muslims support extremist positions that rationalize violence against those who do not share their sentiments. The enmity that started centuries ago between races and religions is still playing out. Women, children, gays and lesbians suffer from forms of religious prejudice everywhere.
It’s amazing in a perverse way what people are capable of doing in the name of God.
In politics, the battle over climate change has not abated, with all sides unable to reach a true consensus on what should be done. The deniers, many of them conservative right wingers largely influenced by the Bible, refuse to heed the call to end fossil fuel consumption and move on to more sustainable ways to generate power. What more proof do they need before they wake up to an environment that is has been altered and is increasingly hostile to humans?
The economic system is as unfair as ever. Greed rules.
The Pope was right in pointing out that people are more important than profit and that the economic system must be overhauled to create more jobs that give people a sense of security and dignity.
The violence against women and children is often perpetuated by religion, culture, politics and greed, although there is a growing consensus that something needs to be done to stop it.
What are we supposed to do in the midst of all of this chaos? Many will throw their hands up and simply say there is nothing we can do. The system is powerful and who are we to stand up and go against something we cannot resolve? Such a question can stun you directly and put an end to any call to do something. It has and continues to disempower a lot of people.
But it has also challenged a few who refuse to listen and instead follow their truth to the beat of a different drum, among them, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Ninoy Aquino, Malala, Mother Teresa, to name a few. The real call of the times is to be steadfast and fight for what we believe in, not to flinch and surrender to forces that are out to disempower us. Often, I look at the world and see that it has been shaped into the image and likeness of other people’s dreams. Except for a few familiar things here and there, I hardly see my own imprint on it. Could I have “lost” it by not doing enough?
You have to hand it to the negative forces in the world, they are doing the hard work needed to fulfill their dreams and mission. But even as we see them as evil, angry people who will do anything to have power, we can learn something from them.
We must work as hard as they do to be able to counter them. We must get angrier than them, but let it be anger that serves the good. Anger is not always a negative emotion. It has its purposes. In the right context, anger is a great ally. It is a call to do something, to act. It is the fuel for what we need to do. It is a reminder that our boundaries are being violated, and a wake-up call that tells us we cannot continue to tolerate what is going on.
Stephane Hessel, a diplomat and a concentration camp survivor, wrote, “If you want to be a real human being — a real woman, a real man — you cannot tolerate things which put you to indignation, to outrage. You must stand up. I always say to people, ‘Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.”
To those who feel helpless and are deeply saddened by the state of the world, go ahead and embrace the feeling with all your heart, empathy and compassion. But do not linger there too long lest you burn your heart to numbness until you cannot feel anything anymore.
Do something, anything, to stoke the fire of action. In your own little space, and with your own little voice, scream as loud as you can. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A good indignation brings out all one’s powers.”
When there are enough voices raised, the world will have to listen and something will be done. This could be our last hurrah.