Friday, 27 June 2014

WHAT AILS US?


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

I saw some young beggars on the City streets these last few days and the image has stayed with me, as I am trying to come to terms with what I can only describe as a great waste. The faces of the young beggars sitting on the sidewalk while the laughing crowd went by them oblivious to their misery is a haunting image and the big question mark of “why?” remains with me. A society such as ours is not one that should allow such an existence. We have a tax system that is designed to support people who are unemployed, down and out and dependent on the welfare of the state. If nothing else good can be said about our Government’s unemployment benefit payments is that they help to preserve some human dignity and allow the unemployed to survive until they find another job. Numerous welfare payment ensure that youth, homeless, single mothers, wards of the state and numerous other down-and-outers are supported and do have to rely on begging for their existence.


I have travelled widely and in some countries begging is way of life. Numerous people have begging as their full time job and this is forced upon them as the state cannot and will not support citizens who are living on the brink, so to speak. The horrific images of mutilated children begging, full well knowing that their own parents have maimed them in order for them to be able to beg, brings a sickening realisation that all is not well with the world as our politicians in this and other Western countries want us to believe.


But in Australia of the 21st century, to see so many beggars on the City streets I cannot comprehend. What ails our society so that able-bodied, intelligent, young people are reduced to this pitiful existence? What a terrible waste! How can we cure a cancer like this so that we can achieve all that we are capable of? Is it such a big thing to ask that we become aware of our potential as thinking, rational, logical people? Can this realisation of our potential cure the apathy with which we look at and not see these latent possibilities thrown away?


Why should so many children, for this is what they are, run away from home? Why so many homeless? Why so many people succumbing to drugs and alcohol, a life of misery and crime? Why so much violence and so much selfishness that destroys their respect for their fellow human beings? Why so much pursuit of animal pleasures and satisfaction of the base instincts, without any thought of things of a higher sphere? I see it constantly in my students. So many of them come to few classes, and even to those unwillingly. They ask what will be in the examination so they can “study” for it. Knowledge for its own sake has become an onerous burden. Even if one tries to teach them what is vitally important, they may turn up their nose at it and say it is too much, it is irrelevant or it is too hard.


What rots the mind of our children and eats into their brains converting them into empty pretty shells that luxuriate only in the gratification of their pretty flesh? Why so much emphasis on the body beautiful, the image, the casing, such that we are now making everyone a nicely wrapped package that contains nothing of value? So much superficiality and emptiness… Is it all about money? Is that what we have made our lives equate to?


Civil unrest in Southeast Asia. Nuclear concerns in Iran. More bombings and rebel warfare in Iraq. A gathering storm in African countries. Whenever we turn on the radio or the TV, log onto the internet a new crisis or tragedy is reported. Is it so surprising that people here seem to have become inured to it all? Reports of thousands of deaths are listened to dispassionately, and so long as they are a safe distance away from us, they do not matter.


Meanwhile, the world keeps turning for us, the music stations keep broadcasting our favourite songs, the “reality” TV shows embroil us in their vicarious existence: Petty arguments, thinly veiled pornography and trivial outbursts of the manufactured authenticity of their situations acted out by the plastic people that are selected to be made into the mirrors of our society. We go out and entertain ourselves – to the theatre, the restaurants, the football games, the discos and the bars. As long as there is enough money to get us by… And some more money to buy our designer clothes… Some more for our latest technological gadgetry, and some more for the next installment of our new model car? How beautiful our little insulated existence! Can a civilisation such as this survive?

3 comments:

  1. You may well ask. It is the same everywhere int eh Western world, not just in Australia. I believe education is the answer. But we must start early, even before primary school. And the role of the family is immense. Perhaps there lies the greatest problem: Family values and how the family brings up children, educating them in life skills.

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  2. Such a compelling rant, Nicholas. I wonder, though, if things are as dire as we think. For all the horror and corruption in the world that make it into the media reports, is there not an equal amount of positive energy working to build small connected communities in which people take care of each other, work to support children and elders, provide alternative activities to the mindless pablum of mass media? I live in a small community in New Hampshire that is working hard to build a safe and economically viable space for all the age levels. Our challenge is to get people to 'step away from their technology' long enough to get to know each other, work together on real events that bring more of us together, and embrace local groups that cement community bonds. I think our world has become unleashed from smaller local units/communities/schools/churches/social clubs/etc because of the growing reliance on mass media and a constant technological 'buzz' ... the imbalance has allowed a sense of detachment and anonymity to develop in our psyches ... children and young people have become especially effected by this.

    So, yes. Change is needed ... small is not such a bad thing. I would theorize that people might be better off to return to smaller neighborhood connections, smaller schools where teachers can really come to know their students, smaller social/health/spiritual groups that support each other more consistently, and smaller blocks of time on computers/televisions.

    Just some thoughts ... thank you for spurring them!

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  3. I agree with both your observations and Susan’s. There is a dangerous impersonality that globalisation and the anonymity of the web have engendered. We can talk of “community” and of “social media” when it coe to the web, but real community and real face-to-face social interactions in family and neighbourhood and real friends is where the answer lies.

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