Our world was hit with demonstrations of evil and brutality the past weekend. I’m sure readers out there don’t need to be told of how to receive, react, or respond to the atrocity of the news. I’m not writing to recount the horrific situation in gruesome details. m you of what positions to take, who to hate, what to pray for and who to pray to. Your Facebook feed is probably full of this.
(Ironically though, this post will probably also appear on your Facebook feed, as it is the medium I usually share it on. You will have to excuse me on that.) Although if you do decide to take certain standpoints after reading this, it should be regarded as a consequence, not an objective of mine. I am not in the business of telling you what to think. I am writing this because I am particularly curious at how the world (and probably you, the reader) respond to Parisian-like tragedies. Through observations, conversations and reading of the news, there are certain trends that pop up that remind me of humanity’s consistency in dealing with hard-hitting times. I would like to share these observations with you.
1. Humanity’s recognition that this is a tragedy.
It seems simple enough and doesn’t seem to need to be stated. However, these assumptions are usually loaded with insights into humanity and should not be disregarded. We obviously condemn the actions of taking the lives of innocent people. The solidarity that multiple countries pledge to show towards France and its people is a testament to the fact that people know these actions are morally abhorrent. How did we get to this standpoint? What is it within us that repels us against murder and the unmerciful killing of another? Why do we value life? Is there a moral compass within us and tells us what is right and wrong? If so, should we listen to it to navigate our lives accordingly? If not, does that mean morality is subjective and we all just happen to agree that mass killing is wrong? The latter doesn’t seem to be plausible. Attempts to justify such an action would surely attract widespread condemnation.
2. Humanity’s recognition that Parisian-like tragedies are not isolated to Paris.
The world has taken a tough beating. Not just this weekend. Not just this year. Not just this century. It’s been handling a lot possibly since its inception (or shortly after). Wars conducted in the name of various causes, be it religion or a racial-cleansing. Big-scale and historical movements such as the imperial colonisation, the slave trade, the Great Famine, and recently, the rise of terrorism. This is not new. Deaths and destruction are not new. Evil is not new. The responses of some members of our community calling out against the biased reporting of news against those who have been suffering in the Middle-East long before those in the city of Paris show us that we recognise that the world is not, and should not be, surprised by tragedies such as this, because they have been happening even before we were aware of it. There is also a peek of hope because we are beginning to realise the extent of damage the world is suffering from. It is only when we see what we need saving from that we see the need to be saved.
3. Humanity’s recognition for the need to #PrayforParis and #Prayfortheworld.
I saved the best for last. This is the most interesting thing I have observed. It happened when MH370 disappeared. It happened when refugees were turned back on their boats. It happened when Lamar Odom was checked into the hospital. Hash-tags were trending and people got serious about prayer and asking for other-worldly help. I understand people approach prayer in different ways, and not everyone who prays believes in a deity. I also understand the deceptiveness of social media and just because it is portrayed as if the world is praying doesn’t mean it actually is. I just find it interesting why it keeps happening when tragedies happen. Maybe we only recognise that we actually need help when we realise we don’t have control over something. So prayer becomes our coping mechanism. So is the intrinsic position within the human heart a belief in the power of prayer? And if so, who are we praying to? What are we praying for? I think the reason why I’m so intrigued by this is because it is very telling of the human condition. If we pray, does that mean we believe someone is listening? Does that mean we believe in a god? If so, what god is this and how does it affect the way we live, if at all? This observation is significant because it shows us what happens when we are at the end of our rope, when normality as we know it comes crumbling down. It reveals a deep need that is usually hidden under the superficiality of this world. If we see this need, why are we not responding to it? Or the better question is, why are we only responding to it in light of Parisian-like tragedies?
It’s sad how we wait for Big Deals and Significant Moments to teach us how to deal with our failings and the evil of this world. It’s sad how only unfortunate circumstances will remind us to empathise. I would offer my condolences, thoughts and prayers to those affected. However, those will not go far. Solidarity is not enough. Humanity standing together in support and togetherness is a good thing, but insufficient. Humanity needs to recognise its failings, and see them in real light in order to come to terms with its short-comings. Only when we recognise the need for saving, that we will actually seek out a Saviour. Have we reached a stage where we desire to be saved from our own short-comings? Or do we need more Parisian-like tragedies to serve as reminders?