A follow-up on Haiti: fading from mind...
A few weeks back, I posted about how I felt that for most people in North America, the terrible earthquake in Haiti and its awful repercussions were essentially unreal, because it was all viewed through the filter of mass media. Because our reactions were/are essentially a shallow kind of empathy unconnected to the real experience, I rather expected that after the event left the round-the-clock coverage, that it would fade from mind, even though the need would persist.
Well, here we are: a story from the Globe and Mail and another from the New York Times. Things are going from bad to worse, and the developed Western world is pulling out. How many of us are still thinking and praying about this issue? Still sending donations? I'm quite certain some are. But I'd be willing to bet most of you are like me--out of sight, out of mind. I commend those news organizations still running stories, even though the exciting, current phases are finished, and we've settled into the dull, grinding, depressing phase of social breakdown and long-term suffering. But they're fighting against the tide.
Why do we do this? The cynical take is that all we care about as a public is stimulation and entertainment. That story is done, let's move on to the next. Give us novelty. And perhaps we dislike long-term, seemingly unsolvable dysfunction. The initial earthquake was shocking in a sort of "tsk, tsk" sort of way, while now we've settled into the deeply depressing phase, which is not nearly as much fun. I'm not really that cynical--I think there is something to those explanations, but I think a lot of it is that we humans only have the capacity for so much. We're busy, and if something isn't right in front of our noses, we simply aren't going to think about it as much. That's not weakness--that's life.
I do want to take the opportunity, however, to remind us to think carefully about how we respond to what we hear and see on our mass media. We need to take it seriously--the earthquake was real, after all. But we need to make decisions about our responses and commitments based on more than just the flavour of the moment. If we commit to something, we should actually commit to it. In this case, you may consider writing your government about continued involvement in Haiti's re-build, and a long-term commitment to donating to the re-building effort. I'm sure there are more possibilities--if you think of anything, feel free to leave a comment here.