Over time during history, whether it be war or simply natural occurrences, we learned about these things through stories that were carried down for the generations, and over time, those stories have become numbers and then those numbers have become numbness.
But it’s essential to nurture compassion to ourselves and to younger generations and it has to be done through stories because when you learn someone else’s story, and when you understand how complicated their stories are, it’s much harder to stereotype the other.
Then you can’t make all-embracing generalisations about women or men, about white’s or blacks because it becomes harder because of those particular stories. Therefore, it’s especially critical to bring not only one story but an enormous multiplicity of stories.
And also as human beings, we’re emotional people, and we need to accept this truth because we connect through those stories.
If we know someone else’s pain or sadness, and what they’ve gone through, there’s a piece of you that should understand it better, but if we just read about categories or numbers then we stop feeling.
And it’s pretty interesting when you look at the documentation of the people who have endured the worst crimes in human history including the Holocaust, genocide and civil wars, nearly all of them are saying almost the same thing.
They say that the antithesis of morality, humanity is not necessarily evil or badness. They’re saying these crimes occurred not necessarily because people were wicked.
They say the reverse of goodness is numbness and is the moment when you stop feeling indifference when we are desensitised, and there comes a threshold when we cease caring.
Whether it’s 5,000 refugees or 500,000 refugees, numbers don’t mean anything after a while if you don’t know their stories, and that threshold is something that we should find extremely dangerous because once we have that kind of desensitised numbness, and once we stop caring for each other then anything can happen from that moment onwards.
So, it’s the responsibility of the storytellers to pierce holes in that wall of numbness and hopefully help people to feel compassion for the others, sadly there’s a developing trend of not only the lack of compassion but open hatred towards people’s suffering, and it’s a sad indication of how low mankind has regressed over the years.
Sadly, there are people who can’t be taught compassion and we should pity them, but it also takes a certain measure of insight to be able to see yourself in someone else’s situation and to assess that situation from a basepoint other than your own life experience.
It also takes a fair bit of understanding to stop and consider someone else’s situation from more than one perspective before judging, and empathy can be shown and it can be acquired at any time in life.
As a child, I grew up in a moderately antiblack family, which as I got older stunned and surprised me because my family were Jewish and knew of all the atrocities that occurred throughout Hitler’s reign. My mother’s people came from Romania and Poland and my father’s people came from Russia and Spain, so I wasn’t sure where the hatred came from.
We’re usually taught prejudice and narrow-mindedness from our progenitors, perhaps not willfully but as children, we’re like pawns and monkey see, monkey do, but this particular day I was out at the shops getting sweets, I must have been roughly 10 at the time and there was this little boy and I remember calling him something to do with his colour, I called him “black” and his immediate response was, “I’m not black, I’m brown.”
I wandered home feeling really guilty because he didn’t look annoyed at what I’d said, but I was annoyed that I’d said it and I swore that I would never be like that to anyone again, and just because my family were prejudiced it didn’t mean that I had to be.
But we fear people that we know nothing about, and if something is different from the norm, then, of course, it’s got to be bad, but my great grandparents came over on what they called the “Onion Boat” although I’ve no idea why it was called that, I guess the same reason that Africans are said to have come over on the “Banana Boat” although I much prefer the Banana’s than the Onions!
But my great-grandparents brought a vast legacy with them and that was the gift to tell stories, accounts of what they went through and what happened to them and why they ended up coming to England, well, not only England, I have family all over the world that got separated, and even though they sometimes still heard from them, they accepted the fact that was how it had to be at the time to survive because these people were and are survivors of whatever atrocities they’ve had to live through.
We whine about people coming over from abroad to England, but we still enjoy the fruits that they bring with them. The corner shops that they work in till the early hours of the morning. We’re happy to drive in a Japanese car, dress in clothes from China and eat food that comes from all corners of the earth, I know the world is round, not flat so has no corners, but that’s for another storyline.
BUT WE’RE NOT HAPPY TO HAVE THEM IN OUR COUNTRY!
That’s because some people and others never learn because they’re deluded by their own stupidity.