How do you react to discovering, again, that somewhere in your environment, other beings are really suffering?
These are some of the reactions I think we sometimes dismal, sometimes wonderful beings may have or experience on realising, uncomfortably, that something bad’s happening somewhere in our environment, or – if we have the heart to stretch our imagination over time and space – in our world, past, present and future:–
- There’s something out there?
- There’s something bad happening out there? Hey, bad stuff happens.
- What’s happening out there? Do pass the salt.
- Yes, there’s bad stuff happening out there, and I won’t bore you with the statistics, but in fact it’s an inevitable part of the evolution of late-stage global democratic capitalism, so really, everyone’s actually getting richer, and in 40 years time today’s poor will have joined us in deep appreciation of home entertainment centres, recreational shopping, cluster housing and package holidays (all of which of course are the apogee of human development and will be surpassed only by locating these activities in outer space).
- There’s something bad happening out there, but have you been out there? I have, and I just can’t help feeling they bring it on themselves.
- There’s something bad happening out there, I know. Really I should actually be doing something but I’ve so little time.
- There’s something bad happening out there, and, it has to be said, it’s happening to people who do seem to weep and bleed rather compellingly.
- There really is something bad happening out there. Hey, I know, I’ll donate some money… and phew, yes, that does feel better.
- There’s something bad happening, and I’d really like to do something more substantial now. But, but there’s this kind of weird sticky fear holding me back; do I really have to leave my comfort zone? Isn’t an inviolate comfort zone the whole point of modern civilisation?
- There’s definitely something bad happening out there; and this time, I decided to do a bit more and actually went out of my way to help, but I tell you, they were either so disorganised or so ungrateful, I really don’t know if there was any point.
- There’s something bad happening out there, so bad, really; and so this time I lurched past my sticky fear-comfort zone thing, and really helped; and actually, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
- There’s something bad happening out there, sure, but I did my bit last time; someone else’s turn now.
- There’s something bad happening out there. We’ll do everything we can to help ‘them’, so long as ‘they’ cooperate.
- There’s something bad happening to someone, to us. Us is everyone. It’s happening right here, right now, and it will change if, only and when we do. Oh shit.
I wrote this in 2008, during the outbreak of violent xenophobia across South Africa. I know so many people who seem never to have laboured through these stages of inner evolution, who seem to have been born with an instinct for the good. May blessings descend on them in abundance for, unseen and small in number, they truly hold the world together. This posted at risk of revealing the meanness of my own conscience.