Over lunch with my Chilean-German and Cambodian colleagues, we started discussing world politics, racism, refugee history and humanism. Not a light lunch. We are all equally shocked, devastated and often at loss with words in talking about the state of the world.
I well remember my first trip to Cambodia, my visit to the dreadful Killing fields and the encounters with the survivors. Being of such recent history, the country’s survival skills have astonished me, the friendliness of the people humbled me. You don’t need to seek out survivors – everyone alive is one. Those many years ago, focusing on the stories of those who didn’t survive, I remember wondering why other countries didn’t interfere, why such disaster was allowed.
In Germany too, the past is still present. It’s present in the silence. Germany has moved on, become unified and a respected European leader. The past is observed with a humble silence, being something too embarrassing to talk about. Quite rightly, people of today want to rub off the weight of their ancestor’s actions and not be associated with something they had no part in.
Chile I’ve only visited once, but the country left a lasting mark. I met nothing but friendly people (one guy came to warn me once that I had been followed so should take caution – I did and never met the person who apparently had an interest in my back bag) despite the massive language barrier (I even struggled finding a loo. I should learn Spanish). Pinochet must have destroyed many families, hearts and hopes, yet a regular traveler encounters nothing but optimism and friendliness.
We didn’t discuss any of the above over the lunch. The past of these countries, and of many others, is so painfully obvious and well-known to us. What’s rather more interesting to discuss, is the fact that we have learned nothing. We as the human kind. We, because we the people of the world are all on the same boat. Which is leaking. And whereas we should all be working together to fix it, we’re rather spending our time on trying to find reasons to not like the person sitting next to us on the bench.
It’s shocking that despite the many genocides, world wars, tyrannies etc that the world has gone through, we keep turning inwards and distancing ourselves from those in need of help. The current refugee wave hitting Europe, is splitting the people into two frontiers. Trump is achieving that in the US on his own. There are those who want to help, and those who spit on the helpers and worst, hit on those needing help.
When I visit a place where nightmares were a reality once, and meet people who survived times which I suffer even reading and hearing about, my first thought is, never again. I don’t understand why such massacres had to happen but I do understand that it can’t be allowed to happen again. Until it does. Time after time I turn my desperate gaze to people and plead them to be shocked and devastated, need them to want to make the madness stop. But more often than not, the response is the opposite. A cold shoulder at best, a direct attack and refusal to help at worst. I’m desperate when I read about attacks against the refugees, be it by individuals or the governing bodies. I’m shocked beyond imagination of the level of social media discussions where “normal people” are mocking and insulting those in need of urgent help. Even children.
Who are we? What kind of people are we if we can’t care for others? What kind of a person would literally kick a desperate person already lying on the ground? I don’t blame anyone for not taking direct action to help, but to actually attack those who already are under an attack? What’s left of humanity if people make entertainment out of people’s despair?
Do educated people in developed countries really require a code of conduct, telling them specifically that when you see someone being bullied, help the victim, don’t join the bullies? If you see someone stumbling and falling, give a hand, and don’t push him further. When someone is starving, give them food and don’t sit down with your pop-corns and amuse yourself watching them die. When a person escapes a war-zone, having experienced torture and fear for the life of the loved ones, open your arms and don’t go burn the shelter they’ve been given. Seriously?
Stop being a bully. Start being a good person. You don’t need to try and save the world, but don’t add to the misery either. We were all born equal, we were all born humans. By spreading love, not hate, the world could still have hope. Humans could win back humanity.