WARNING: This is somewhat of a rant. Please comment, especially if you agree or disagree with something.
It’s not true that people have been desensitized or lost their capacity for emotion. People are connecting still to books with morals, music with principles, and and movies which depict ethical dilemmas. The disconnect, I think, is when people cannot connect to those things HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE.
Take The Hunger Games, for example. People are excited about it, captured by the books, and waiting in anticipation for the first movie to come out. And for good reason, it’s a fast-paced story about love, sacrifice, strength, and a propensity for humans to construct unfair systems which perpetuate wealth and repress the poor. It’s also a dramatized analogy to real life.
So how is it that people are moved so easily to tears by the turning pages of this novel, the pre-released soundtrack, or the teaser trailer, but not compelled to obsessively seek out the latest news on the (still going!) drought in the Horn of Africa, the updates on corruption in West African countries like Ghana and Nigeria, or better yet, the drama excruciatingly unfolding on a yearly basis in many of First Nations’ reserves in Canada. I admit, I too am way more likely to be sucked into reading Harry Potter than the next book on recent International Affairs.
But why? Where is the disconnect here? How can we not make the connection that even though the stories we read and hear and see are over-the-top, romantically tragic, and usually feature alternate technologies, actually have a lot in common with what many people that WE are connected to face on a daily basis?
The elites of the Capitol in the Hunger Games series spend lavishly on themselves, are ignorant of the realities of where their produce comes from and how their consumption is supported, and have relative liberty to explore as much as they want as long as they don’t ask too many questions. You’re thinking I’m guilting you all about being a Canadian citizen.
Well, yes, if you can see that connection, I’m seeing it too. But I also want to draw in a recent blog that I’ve read (see here: You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum!), connecting what we in international development discussions call “brain drain”, or what I see as a natural propensity to further one’s own situation, while balancing an equally natural urge to navigate social connections.
This post talks about all of those overseas-educated Africans, who have worked hard, had good opportunities, and really made their living situation much better under their own steam. No one can blame anyone for that. It goes on to underline, in stronger words than I prefer, that all of those self-made Africans are frittering away their talent in places like New York, Accra, and Lagos, with little regard or understanding for their fellows, who may have faced similar struggles, with less luck, and less success. And how social expectations of professional dress, flights to important conferences, and networking in bars should be considered, but not override that knowledge of the ability to affect change, as members of their global and local communities.
Yes, we’re stuck in systems that encourage blind living, with set “career paths”, identifying with our consumption patterns (I’m a mac person), but does that validate them? I don’t think we should be blind to how our own game of life entrenches an economic game of hunger.
Note: Yes, things are much more complicated than I’ve laid them out, but I believe that the omission of detail doesn’t degrade the overall implications of our actions.