The Globalisation of Indifference

A few weeks ago, I read an article in which renowned futurist Ray Kurtzweil describes how our brains will be directly connected to the Cloud in the 2030s. It got me thinking about where we’re heading, and I didn’t like it. It’s not where we’re heading that I didn’t like, rather how concerned we are with going “forward” and on what expense. A few things then came to mind, and I thought I’d share them.

The first thing that came to mind after reading an article on how ‘nanobots’ will one day travel through our brains was to check where the world’s at when it comes to combatting poverty, inequality and exclusion. Apparently, according to The Hunger Project’s “Know Your World: Facts about Hunger and Poverty”, 795 million people – or one in nine people in the world – do not have enough to eat, 98% of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries, about 896 million people in developing countries only live on $1.90 a day or less and 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation. It seems we’re not close – nor closer – to doing a decent job on tackling the matter, and I bet the concerned people are not nearly as excited as we are with the announced brain-cloud connection technology.

The next thing that came to mind was to examine how much we (myself and the people I see in my surroundings) care about it. Note that ‘caring about it’ means ‘doing something about it’, “it” being on the one hand, the combat itself, and on the other hand, the fact that the combat comes in second (third? fourth? last?) place down the ladder of our preoccupations, preceded notably by our preoccupation with establishing our own journey or ideal and acquiring stuff that provide us with comfort and luxury along the way. Dr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio describes what we are witnessing as the “globalization of indifference”. His words are worth quoting: “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”*

The third thing that came to mind was to reflect upon why this is the case – in other words, to reflect upon why such concerns preoccupy us so little (if at all) and to reflect upon how it is that we end up contributing to the very “impersonal economy” whose ruthless dictatorship we condemn. Things became more interesting. It seems like it all starts in the classroom. You’re invited to follow your dreams – whatever the expense -, to prove your worth, to make yourself more ‘marketable’. In parallel, you’re taught how the system works, and you’re loaded with tons of information to be used in completing your day-to-day homework. You learn stuff without always realizing what is at stake. For C.S. Lewis, “the very power of [textbook writers] depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.” Although I find it interesting to dwell upon how “education” may end up having a “taming” effect (to be compared with the development of critical thinking), such is neither the object of my writing nor the point I’m trying to make in the present paragraph. The fact remains that consumerism (spending 100$ on a Saturday night party,   anyone?), individualism and self-absorption are the dominant playmakers in a world where everything, even morality, is function of the economy.

In conclusion, I have no particular exhortation to give nor any particular practical step to advocate. I’m only writing for the sake of truth, which I think is worth a lot. It remains to say that if we’re not actively acting to help “eliminate the structural causes of global economic dysfunction”, then we’re indifferently contributing to sustain the dysfunction. I don’t think a person can claim to belong to a third category of people. Thought I’d say so just so we don’t forget.

Jacques Noun

Third year law student

* Dr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is Pope Francis, current pope of the Catholic Church. I just thought that quoting him as “Pope Francis” would have led some to categorize his words as ‘doctrinal catechism’ as opposed to appreciating their value for what they really are and for what reality they depict.

Une réflexion sur “The Globalisation of Indifference

  1. Thank you for your interesting comments.
    Can we « be the change we want to see in the world » and thus take action within the one most difficult thing in the world to change: Ourself?

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