Let me preface this post by saying that this is probably the type of post I would cringe upon reading elsewhere and totally avoid writing something like this, probably because it seems pretentious and self-righteous. But whatever. Also, these are fairly scattered thoughts.
So, where were we? Your neighbour’s house is burning, what do you do?
The natural course of action, it would seem, is to get to the closest phone, dial 911 and wait for the fire truck to arrive. This seems like the thing to do, it’s what we’re trained to do. But I wonder if that’s where our responsibility ends? Can we hang up the phone and say, yup, pats on the back for me, I’ve done my bit? Or do you think, there must be something else I can do?
What do you do when the fire department doesn’t respond? Do you keep calling? Do you get other people to call too? And what if they’re still not responsive? What then? Does your responsibility end because you’ve made the call(s)? Because the house is still burning. You can start to get buckets of water and start to try and put the fire out. But you can’t do it alone, you need help from others. It is possible to put out the fire collectively even when the fire department does not respond. There are ways beyond the phone call.
And I think that is my problem with efforts such as http://www.demandastance.com/gaza/, or just letter writing in general. Yes, yes, every letters counts and every voice matters. Sure. But is that where it ends? It’s too easy. I clicked a few buttons, or mailed a letter, or made a call. But is that enough? Can you say you did whatever was in your power to do? Or did you just do what was easiest, did you do what was least inconvenient?
It doesn’t seem like enough. It isn’t enough.
But it’s not just this issue. There are plenty of problems that need our attention, both around the world and right here in Toronto. We can always say that it’s not our problem. I’m sorry, but it is. These are all our problems. But one could say that, “not my problem”. People dying in Darfur? Not my problem. Starving people in Toronto? Not my problem. Occupied/oppressed people around the world? Not my problem. Some people go around shooting other people in Mumbai? Not my problem.
Ummm… no. It is your problem. It’s our problem. It reminds me of the hadith that says that the Muslim ummah is like one body, that if one part hurts then all of it suffers. But I think this ought to extend beyond Muslims. These are all our problems, Muslim or not. We can choose to ignore them, but they remain our problems.
So what is it that causes us to ignore these issues? Do we not care? I think we do care, but I don’t think we care enough. Or at times we don’t care to care. I think we’re too comfortable where we are in way that we can (or choose to) disconnect ourselves from our surroundings. You’re born, you eat, sleep and cry. You grow up and go to school, where you’re taught to conform, colour within the lines and not question the status quo. You go to university, where the main goal seems to be to produce people fit for the “work force”, at least that is where the “value” is placed. You get into the work force, and you work, day in and day out, busying yourself from other things. You get married, have children, and then make sure that the pattern is repeated for them.
The problem is everywhere, schools, work etc. But shit happens because we let it happen. Education that doesn’t make you think and question isn’t doing its job. At the same time, if it doesn’t engage you enough to act, it is also not doing its job. Sure, the problems we face are not simple, they are complex. But they are worth solving.
(more to come… maybe)