Monday, April 27, 2015

The Nepal earthquake brings out the Nero within us?

Of course, people die every day.  It will be the biggest news of all if nobody died anywhere on the planet even for one single day.  

But, when disaster strikes, I find that I  am almost always consumed by the news reports.  Fukushima, cyclone Nargis, the Indonesian earthquake ... and 9/11, Iraq War, ... and now the earthquake in Nepal.

It is strange that as individuals we continue on with our lives even when tragedies strike.  When something unfortunate happens to us, only then do we view it as an all-consuming and most-urgent issue.  As long as it--however small or huge--happens elsewhere, well, we might feel sorry for the people dead and alive in that somewhere else, but we go on with our own mundane lives.

I suppose such an approach is key to our own survival as individuals and as humankind on this planet; else, we could easily be numbed into inaction every single time something happens.  But, where does one draw the line between that selfish view of our individual existence versus a whole range of emotions for our fellow humans?

Of course, where to draw that line has been my obsession right from my teenage years.  Eleven years ago, I even wrote about it.  I concluded there that "perhaps academic life means a continuous attempt to redraw the line that separates what I teach from how I live."  I am all the more convinced about it.  And equally convinced am I that it is one frustrating attempt.  

We talk about the proverbial Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.  But, each and every one of us practices that all the time.  We know--really well, thanks to various information channels now available to us--that parts of the world are literally or metaphorically burning, but we fiddle away anyway. 

That fiddling while burning is another way of referring to the juxtapositions I referred to in the post yesterday.  

Today, from the same newspaper--the WSJ--are the following exhibits:

The WSJ has an excellent analysis of the financial impact of the quake on Nepal:

And in a different section is this opinion piece:

In the middle of the chaos in Nepal, you think the average person is wondering how awesome sex in the future will be?  

But, we continue on with our lives.  We might offer a small prayer for the suffering millions around the world and that is where we draw the line.  We humans are an interesting species, no doubt.


Anne in Salem said...

Yes, fiddling is a key to our survival. Obsessing with every disaster, whether natural or man-made, does not pay the bills, feed the kids, walk the dog, pull the weeds, etc. Realistically, there is little I can do. I can't go there to help. I can pray, and I can give money. If requested, I can give blood. Beyond that, what is gained by such a fixation?

Sriram Khé said...

We all draw those lines differently. Which is also what my grad school professor told me.

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