We Have Moral Obligations – Do Something

Sometimes I don’t like the world we live in.

I don’t.

It is frequently inhumane, lacks compassion and treats the vulnerable with callous indifference.

Right now, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions is right under our noses. People as in men, women, children, old and young, fleeing war, oppression and slaughter in countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

The desperation of these refugees is such they will take to anything floating and undertake the perilous journey over water, to reach safety and hopefully a new life. It’s a dance with the devil. You are maybe damned if you do and almost certainly damned if you don’t. Take the risk and die. Stay and definitely die. Would you call that a choice?  It’s being played out nightly on the TV news. Many make it. Some do not. But despite the obvious risk, they come. And keep coming. Desperation makes you crazy.

We see these people arrive in the thousands. A human tidal wave, showing no sign of abating. A human tidal wave, that Europe largely doesn’t want to know, doesn’t know what to do with, or how to stop. It’s not going to stop. If anything it will continue to swell.

But what is really important is our collective response, with few exceptions, to these people who need our help. What has it been? We close our borders, or in the case of Australia, the country I live in, we close our borders, tow them back to their stepping off point or, if that doesn’t work, force to them to go to a glorified prison in some god forsaken rat hole like Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They used to come in relatively large numbers. Now they don’t come  at all. Our Australian Government takes the credit for this. As if there is credit to be taken. It trumpets the catch cry, we stopped the boats, as if it’s something laudable. I guess it could be if you think cruelty is laudable.

These people committed no crime. Unless you believe asking for help is a crime. And no good pretending we don’t collectively share some culpability for their displacement. They are currently living in a war zone in the countries I already mentioned. And countries like the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Australia are contributing to that war zone by dropping bombs and missiles. Even if you truly believe it is a necessary evil to do this, it doesn’t excuse our responsibility to the people displaced as a result.

Syria is a political and social catastrophe. A catastrophe, in all probability, it may never recover from. I understand that. But we can’t simply shrug our shoulders and pretend we aren’t human beings. If people are in need, we have a moral obligation to help them. I am unable to process how we can simply look away and pretend they don’t exist or pretend it’s too big or pretend that we don’t have that obligation. Sorry but we do. It was one of the things we all signed up for in order to become a member of the human race. Even if you don’t believe what I am saying, then believe this: It’s the right thing to do.

I was looking at a video the other day that made me very sad at what we have become. It showed a homeless boy on the streets of a wealthy and affluent American city begging for help. It was cold and he was dressed in rags and carrying a plastic bag. All he had in the world. He was weak and desperate. It was etched on his face. But people simply kept walking and pretending he didn’t exist. We do indifference so well. In the end, another homeless man gave this young boy some help in the form of donating his own warm jacket. Two desperate individuals but one prepared to sacrifice what little he had to help a fellow human being. It was uplifting but at the same time morally bankrupt.

If you want to abrogate your responsibility, think this isn’t your circus, want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of your fellow humans, fine. But go and live on another planet because you certainly don’t belong on this one.

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