Does no one care?

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Tuesday 25 Jun 2024

 

 

Summertime — and the living is easy, so it says.

The season is officially here; whatever happened to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer? Was it only yesteryear that we rattled and rolled on golden sands, embracing the vistas of our universe? Were we not active and healthy, walking and talking, laughing and singing? We were vigorous, intelligent human beings and we wanted to live forever.

Is it not the same anymore? Has the world lost its innocence, its gentle tranquility, its calm serenity, its mild composure? What about its human compassion?

There is a familiar melancholy within us. Uneasy, agitated, insecure, we seek the one thing that is inseparable to the meaning of life — this heart within us. Is it still beating?

Did the world awake to a new reality? Ideas abound in observations, theories, studies, hypotheses, articles, and suggestions, concluding that there is a shift towards greater superficiality. They tell us that we are caring less, not only about those around us, but about the world itself. Experts are still confused over the exact reasons for this ambiguity and they are numerous. The result is, in no uncertain truths, that we, the people of our world, are caring less.

Some believe that we care less because we gradually disconnect from nature. As we retreat further into the many devices of our digital worlds, we continue to move ourselves from reality. A false illusion of an expanded existence has instead narrowed our perspective.

Gone is our social interaction; now we have our social media.

Scientists believe we never think too long or spend too much time on one thing. We do not care deeply, speak meaningfully or have empathy. Say it is not so.

Did the world wake up to a new reality, say after Covid-19?

A global report from Oxford and Reuters Institute confirm that news consumption has dropped significantly between 2020 to late 2021. Even the arrival the Omicron variant and its high speed spike did not cause a major surge in interest as they did in previous pandemics.

The decline in caring behaviour is a complex issue, influenced by individualism and technology, resulting in the erosion and fear of vulnerability. “Things that once matter, don’t matter, never in a way they did before,” wrote The New York Times cartoonist Roz Chast. “For the last couple of years that is just not really a part of my life.”

Even the Winter Olympics were hardly exciting. What manifests us as a lack of engagement in the world? What is the mysterious date of 2022?

Economist Noreena Hertz, in her book The Lonely Century (2020), writes that the pandemic was lost on everyday interacting. “Without a little dose of connection we’re suffering from a resilience fatigue, contributing to a collective exhaustion”. That is yet another “care-less” theory. It seems more common sense, not total disengagement.

Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd explains: “It is not a year or two, it is a steady drizzle that a lot of people are dealing with right now, of helplessness and hopelessness.” His theory anchored on the division of class and race. “The underclassed feel that the world does not care about their pain. Is that a revelation? Has it not always been two divisions... ‘the Haves and the Have-Nots?’”

Are we running out of reasons?

Weissbourd added “the Happys and the Sads”, meaning the rich and the poor. That is old stuff, comprising of one per cent rich and 99 per cent poor. Does that mean seven billion people are sad, and suddenly in 2022? No, adds Weissbourd, “apart from two years of Covid, we’ve had a century in which our culture has been out of nature,” meaning individualistic.

What about wars, we ask. We had two Great Wars in the last century and two others in our fledgling century, how does that way on us?

After two years in Ukraine, in 2022, the forces are running out of ammunition, and the forces are running out of time. Momentum is diminishing. The world is weary of years of war.

On 7 October 2023, news were flooded with yet another war in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine/Gaza.

International criticism has grown steadily over US support for Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza, killing more than 37,100 civilians, resulting in warrants of arrest on 20 May 2024 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against both sides of the war. Over a month has passed, with no accountability for those accused of graves crimes.

The present stalemate begs the question as to whether the ICC could promote justice as well as peace based on the UN Security referrals.

Not only should the ICC maximise its Crime Prevention Impact, but Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding even more weapons from the US for Israel’s offensive, in wiping out the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza.

“The longer we talk about war, the less interest it holds for people.” Will this happen eventually to Gaza as it did to Ukraine? Is it a fickle world we live in? Are we caring less?

Call it apathy. Call it indifference. Call it the great whatever. It is the dominant vibe, shun it.

Refresh our humanitarianism. Seek literature, often squeezed out by science.

Find the little nameless, unremembered acts of care and compassion.

Weep and mourn, love and sing. This is life.

 

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all its ills.”

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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