Monday, 7 September 2015

Sickened, saddened, sorrowful

It seems as though there's not much that hasn't been said about Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old boy who was photographed dead, washed up on a foreign shore, after he and his family fled their own war-torn country. Much of what I could, would, should, might have said has already been said, in particular by the Unmumsy Mum in her blog. She even links to the same Guardian article about ways to help that I was going to link to. If your heart is breaking at the thought of the men, women and children who are so desperate to escape from their own countries that they will risk everything to get away, then please at least look at that article and think about whether there's a way you can help. Don't just post another photograph of poor little Aylan Kurdi. Don't just sign another petition. Don't just write another tweet about how awful it is. If you care, do something. We cannot make a difference to the kind of world we live in just by sitting on our sofas nodding sadly about how awful it is, then pouring another glass of merlot.

Are things any worse in that respect than they ever were? Does the immediacy and ubiquity of social media make it too easy for a child's death to become a meme, a passing fad for everyone to re-tweet, before being forgotten again? Or am I just as cynical as Chumbawamba were about LiveAid, with Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records? I'm sad and angry with myself, and with the world, that it took a poignant photograph of a dead child to wake me up to the reality of the words contained in the news reports, to the individual tragedy that every death is to a family. I shouldn't be surprised - after all, we all heard the news about the famine in Ethiopia, but it wasn't until we saw Michael Buerk there in 1984 that it sank in, and it wasn't until Bob Geldof shouted at us all to pick up the phone and give money that most of us lifted a finger. But how many people carried on giving? How many people carried on caring, carried on trying to make a difference, carried on wanting to change the world? Not enough, if the state of the world is anything to go by...

And maybe we can't make a difference anyway. That thought depresses me. Because, no matter what we, the little people, do, no matter what donations we make, what food parcels we send, what campaigns we start, our efforts can only ever scratch the surface. How can I stop a war? How can I eliminate the hate and intolerance and prejudice and fundamentalism and inequality that underpin so much of the world's conflicts? I cannot stop Shia and Sunni from turning on each other, any more than I can stop Protestant and Catholic from doing so, or white and black, or rich and poor, or left and right.

I've tried voting, and it feels like it hasn't made a difference. I certainly don't have a government that reflects my own views or values. I suppose in the end, all I can do is help one person at a time. And if all of us help one person, then that's a lot of people helped. It's not enough to think that it's someone else's job to help. We are all human beings, it's up to all of us to help each other.

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