If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about the crushing shame and terror I feel when I think about Syria. All these years I’ve paid no attention to the things going on there, and now I feel such complete inadequacy in the face of such incomprehensible evil, which doesn’t even end in Syria, but happens everywhere.
If we were having coffee right now, I’d tell you how this need to do something is killing me. It makes me feel so stupid to just sit and type at my keyboard when I know that there are children killed and abused all over the world at this very moment. What’s the use of knowing, when I do nothing? Maybe I feel the need to do something, because by doing something I could appease my conscience. People sign all kinds of Facebook petitions for this purpose. I could tell myself that I have at least tried, and not just conveniently forgotten about how evil the world is.
Yesterday I read an article, which blamed the whole crisis in Syria on the West’s sanctimonious need “to do something.” The article states that if the West had left the precarious Middle Eastern balance in peace, Isis would never have been capable of developing to its current force, and all this humane suffering might have been avoided. The West tried to destroy a small evil but the evil wasn’t squashed and came back bigger and badder still.
When we feel this need to act, to intervene, maybe we’re remembering the recent past with the Nazis, when the common cry after all the bodies had been counted was: “Why didn’t you do something?” What can you say to that? I didn’t know what to do? I was too scared, since I’m just an ordinary person? I didn’t have the means or the ability? I didn’t know? During the Nazi regimen many people had the chance to hide behind a lack of knowledge. Maybe they really didn’t know, but during the era of the Internet, few people could claim such ignorance. Not wanting to see is not the same as not knowing.
Is it stupid to intervene and try to do something? I think we have a moral obligation to try and help innocent people who are being destroyed and made to survive in inhumane circumstances. But maybe we just need to remember that there is the respectful way, and the other way. Maybe we should ask these people: “How can we help to make this situation better?” instead of just barging in and “doing something.”
So if we were having coffee right now, I’d probably have infected you with this weltschmerz by now and you would waving at the waitress to please come and bring the check, please. And I know that people don’t want to be reminded, and I don’t want to be reminded, but I can’t help but feel this pain whenever I think about those poor people who must be wondering “Why doesn’t anyone do anything?”
Here’s the original article I was referencing: