Faraway, So Close.

November 30, 2010

in random

I came across an interesting article today in which the author questioned the recent brouhaha / vociferous protest against the security measures enforced by TSA while some other, more serious, offense committed by the US government, such as the wrongful execution of  its citizens, did not inspire nearly enough the appropriate amount and degree of outrage. The author posited that it is easier to find compassion for and harder to ignore when things affect people who are more like ourselves, in this case, law-abiding, gainfully employed, relevantly affluent people and their families who can afford to fly.

To first approximation, everyone can empathize with their neighbors or co-workers and people who they see every day. It’s a bit more of a stretch to take the point of view of people in the next town, or those from a different ethnic group or class, or the gay, or the homeless, or those who dwell in radically different social worlds (Afghan tribesmen, say). The liberal humanist imagination at least strives to see the world through the eyes of others; whereas the conservative mind seems to thrive on shutting out foreignness, or reducing it to something known.

… …

Being cosmopolitan is hard, it takes work. Empathizing with others is also hard — and it’s not even clear what it should mean. Nobody has the time and resources to empathize with everyone, but the modern world puts us in contact with essentially everyone.

— “No Compassion”, 24 November 2010, Omniorthogonal

What the author wrote about the modern world and the access to “essentially everyone” really struck a cord: I pride myself on being an informed global citizen. Compared to the average Americans, I (believe I) know more about histories, geographies, cultures, customs, and happenings in other countries. I listen to NPR religiously and I read Business Week (used to) read The Economist after all!…

Expanding my alter-ego through the Interwebs, I feel connected to parts of the world that I would not have had any connection to otherwise. I am the product of globalization. A citizen of the world. A resident of the World Wide Web. My peeps are all over the world.

This was made evident when someone in Haiti visited and commented on my blog. At the same time I started noticing the crack in my self-congratulatory complacency.

Kathryn at Reinventing the Event Horizon wrote about the recent presidential election in Haiti and the alleged corruption that’s gotten people agitated to say the least. Did I know about Haiti’s presidential election? Yes, kind of. I heard about Wyclef Jean’s failed attempt to register as a candidate there, and I am aware of the potential for election frauds. Reading Kathryn’s posts was my first exposure to what is currently going on in Haiti. My knowledge of Haiti’s present until then was to the extent of what NPR aired and Twitter tweeted that I happened to catch. The same goes for everything that is happening around the world.

Another fissure showed up in my facade of a well-informed global citizen when a blogger in Indonesia that I got to know online (through Twitter and blogging) tweeted me to say Hi.



Hundreds of people have died since the first volcano eruption at Merapi on October 25. I did not know anything about it until today. But even my self-chastisement sounds hollow and self-indulgent at this moment. In the scheme of things. Nina sent me a link to see for myself how huge a deal this was in her part of the world. The images speak volumes to the massive force of nature. (For the faint of heart, please do NOT go on to Page 2 where horrific images of the victims are included…)

At times the world seems smaller and the people in it closer because we are all connected, for the fortunate amongst us anyway (Think of Kathryn whose connection to those of us outside of Haiti depends on her WiFi connectivity). At times, of course, we seem yet so far away because I was celebrating Thanksgiving and complaining about cooking while Nina and her people were holding their breath, tweeting the latest updates on the volcano eruptions and relief efforts.

Once again, this is one of those posts where I stated a problem without providing any answers and in the process of writing, only got myself even more confused. I lost my point if there was even a point when I first started.

Reaching out.

We reached out to each other. That should count for something, right?



Reach out.

Would you reach out and touch a young boy’s heart? Trevor is 12 and he will be undergoing a risky heart surgery today. Pray for him please.



Elly is having her appointment with Dr. Aloysius today. Let your positive thoughts reach her. She is in the general direction of the original Lady Gaga aka Statue of Liberty. Think good thoughts for Elly today. If you play any instrument, play a song for her to keep her company while she waits.


It is cheesy. Yeah it is true. It is cliche. See if I care. Let there be love, baby. Let there be love.



SisterMerryHellish December 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

You be disingenuous? That’s UNpossible! Hell, if it weren’t for your blog I wouldn’t know half the stuff you posted… and I’m commenting on Saturday! That’s four days I was walking around too busy bitching about the postal service and spilled pork fried rice to know what was going on!
SisterMerryHellish´s last blog post…YouTube How-To- J is for Jump Higher

chickens consigliere December 1, 2010 at 11:57 am

Hi SubWOW-I struggle with this issue. I am silly. I write about pretty shallow things. And when I think about the things that go on in the world, particularly about things that might be happening to children, I feel very bad about having a sense of humor. I feel I should be more serious and earnest. Also, I think, because we do have some access to the rest of the world all the time, we are constantly taking in too much information and at the same time feel insignificant. That breeds guilt, wouldn’t you say? 200 years ago, how many people had significant knowledge of what was going on in another country? We knew what was going on in our own communities and we cared-maybe we are genetically designed that way-to be more concerned about that which happens to people in our community (or with whom we identify). Regarding the TSA checks, I think everyone should just back the eff off. Have you forgotten about 9/11? Because they are waiting for us to forget. Then they can do it again. If you don’t want to be checked, stay home. Great post, SW.

Absence Alternatives December 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

You are not silly. What you said about a long time ago was exactly the point made by the article that I quoted. Information overload also brings out guilt for inaction: What are you gonna do with the knowledge of all the sadness happening around the world? Sometimes I feel guilty NOT talking about these things, and then I feel guilty also for talking about them since all I seem to be doing is just talk. And you know, talk is cheap… So am I simply no better than a hypocrite? I am a self-aware hypocrite: does that make it better or ok? I know those who frequent this blog love me enough to want to tell me that this is all crazy talk. For that, I really thank you and find myself blessed. However, I cannot help going back and forth.

Have you read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut? That was the first Vonnegut book I read (and I have since read all of them and then of course proceeded to forget the details in all of them except this book). Eliot Rosewater is the heir to a great fortune, a philanthropic foundation. He went down the list to do all the “good things” the foundation was set up to do but it was just not enough. He felt something was amiss by his still living a much better life than those who he was trying to help. Eventually he ended up being a volunteer fireman at a small town.

I think in the back of my head I feel that one is not doing enough when one is not giving it all away. And of course I don’t want to sacrifice what I already have. (That’s why the other day I said I am thankful for being in a position where I could be generous without having to feel any conflict…) Mother Teresa I ain’t.

I am crazy I know. I should shut up now lest I come off as disingenuous…

Jen @ NathanRising December 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

I am hurting for all those affected by the volcano eruption…. I hate, hate, hate to see/hear about people suffering. My heart breaks for each and everyone of them and my thoughts and prayers go out to them all.

Oh, and the twitter blunder? I have totally done stuff like that before. And then wanted desperately to crawl into a hole or chew off my entire left arm…
Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog post…If you smoke cigarettes- all the more reason to quit!

writerwoman61 December 1, 2010 at 6:54 am

I think the Internet has made the world a lot smaller than it used to be…that’s a good thing!

I remember reading Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance” a few years ago, and rushing to the Internet to research the situation in India in the 1970’s…I was a teenager then, and read the local newspaper every day, but still had no idea about the ethnic cleansing that was going on in India at that time! It was shocking to me that I hadn’t known about something that affected thousands of people.

As Renée says, a lot of people don’t know about anything other than what’s happening in their own lives, and often don’t care – it’s all about them. The proportion of people who don’t have any idea about current events is staggering!


writerwoman61´s last blog post…A Wilde and Snowy Weekend…

Renee Fisher December 1, 2010 at 3:40 am

Such an important post. I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s always so much easier to react to what one’s friends/neighbors/oneself are going through. It’s so much more difficult to feel anything about what happens a world away. And, as the world gets more and more complex (read: scary) I think people’s reaction is to focus only on what is immediate to them. Hell, a lot of people in this country are clueless about anything that goes beyond the names of designer purses or who won the last football game. So the question is, how do we make people understand/care? I don’t know.

Wicked Shawn November 30, 2010 at 11:03 pm

You care about the things you are aware of, love the people you know of, do everything you can for the causes you hear of…….and yet somehow you find fault with yourself. Tom, Duff……..did you two secretly convert her to Catholicism while I wasn’t watching, because seriously, this lady has the Catholic guilt thing down lock step!
Wicked Shawn´s last blog post…Attention Whores

dufmanno December 3, 2010 at 9:34 am

Yup. She even asked to wear the plaid jumper and navy wool kneesocks with maryjanes.
dufmanno´s last blog post…This Morning I Found a Small Glass Disc in My Ovaltine and Other Assorted Horror Stories

secret agent woman November 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm

But really, can you be aware of everything going on all over the world, even all the really big things? We may have access to contact with everyone or information about everyone, but we are human. You have to choose where you focus your energy. You aren’t an “asshole” if you miss news of a natural disaster. You’re just a person who can’t spend every waking moment staying current with the entire planet. The point is, when you do become aware, you care. That’s the best we can do.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Random shots from my Thanksgiving walk

Lies December 3, 2010 at 3:13 am

I second that. Half of the world is awake at any given time – disasters and miracles occur not every day, but every minute, and 99% of them never even make it on the national news, let alone the international one. And that is a good thing – you can’t care about everything and everyone, however big your heart is (and I know yours is), you cannot contain all of that. Don’t blame yourself for not knowing what is going on, pride yourself for caring when you heard a friend of yours was suffering. That’s the best you can do (I think). (I’m not fully happy with the “pride” in that previous sentence… but I don’t find the right word. Hope you understand the idea though)
Lies´s last blog post…Do you have too many friends

Nina November 30, 2010 at 7:22 pm

i’ve always said if only i could explained myself better in english.
thank you. you made my day. always do.
Nina´s last blog post…Hidup Itu Seperti Mimpi

pattypunker November 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm

i’m rocking out my air bass for trevor and kickin it on that miracle drum you sent me for elly. there is love in this blogosphere and you’re an angel of the highest order.
pattypunker´s last blog post…i lost my fun

dufmanno November 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

Okay, I was all disillusioned with the state of the world and the shitty behavior of it’s occupants and then I slunk over here and got a drop kick in the ass. Thank you, SubWoW for your dose of reality when I got all tangled up in the rank human foibles of some jerks who made life sad for others.
That, my dear, is why I love you.
Also, a warm dose of maternal reality check from the woman who gave me life.
She once said to a mopey me—
” What do you have to be sad about? You know who should be sad? That kid hiding under the one remaining shrubbery in his village where everyone has been devoured by a maneating lion pride, THAT’S who has a reason to be upset today. YOU’RE problems are manufactued by someone who’s so consumed with themselves that they have nothing better to do. Take a look at the world little missy, not just your pathetic little spoiled slice of it!!”
Thanks MOM!
dufmanno´s last blog post…Cap Guns and Candy Cigarettes

Tom G. November 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Holy crap. Your Mom takes passive aggression to whole new level! That’s like a double shot of guilt with a remorse chaser.
Tom G.´s last blog post…Caution- Mojo at Work

Tom G. November 30, 2010 at 7:47 am

Good Luck Trevor!

Good Luck Elly!

Our thoughts and prayers are with you both.

Merapi, Haiti, etc… I have no words. Just mute prayers that peace, and rest lie beyond this vale of tears.
Tom G.´s last blog post…Caution- Mojo at Work

Elly Lou November 30, 2010 at 6:33 am

Good luck Trevor. Good luck me. God bless SubWow and her stellar rack that can barely contain her gigantic heart.

Andrea November 30, 2010 at 5:46 am

You are amazing. When you learn about these unfortunate happenings, you do what you can to bring them the attention of those who read here. And that’s more than many do. Your heart genuinely wants to know, while others prefer ignorance. And I can’t get over the twitter exchange with the smiley on the end! That’s incredible.

lisa@notesfromafrica November 30, 2010 at 5:36 am

To me having people like Kathryn blogging from their corner of the world, makes things far more meaningful and real than seeing the same story told on CNN or BBC.

Absence Alternatives November 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm


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