I am aware of planes disappearing, planes being blown out of the sky, planes and buses crashing, a teen pilot dying attempting to fly solo around the world, refugees suffering, religious wars, civil wars, territorial wars, tribal wars, children being locked in cars, surgeons removing 232 teeth from an Indian teenager, child abusers in every hidden and not so hidden corner, politicians rorting their entitlements and no justice for the victims of a system designed to punish the poor.
In the Ballarat library today, as I walked in the door and just near the entrance there is a condolence book for the victims of the M17 disaster in the Ukraine. Someone has obviously gone to a lot of trouble to create a poster, a condolence book - some flowers. I wonder why for this event and not for every other human being originated disaster that has occurred on the planet? I read that it has been provided by no less than the Victorian Government - available right across the state - for anyone in the community wishing to pay their respects to the lives lost on Flight MH-17. I stand there staring at it - attempting to make sense of it all. Is it because 37 Australians were killed? Is it (as I later learned) because a Ballarat Football League club committee member and his wife were aboard the downed plane? Why the necessity for this particular event and not for all the other atrocities occurring right now on the planet?
I contemplate just how many other libraries might have these books on display. Not that I begrudge anyone the right, but there appears to be a judgement occurring by the powers that be and their intrepid audience as to who is worthy and who is not . It seems that we are both subtly and overtly guided as to who may be the object of our condolences. I wonder a lot about the news coverage of this particular tragedy and other global events when so many humans have and are being killed in massacres, infractions, accidents, civil war, territorial disputes, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. We are overwhelmed. As Waleed Aly wrote a few days ago in the Sydney Morning Herald, (MH17, Gaza and the value of human life - see my Facebook page):
"We judge which deaths to mourn, which to ignore, and which to rationalise on the basis of the story we want them to tell".
Would the condolence book be there if we weren't bombarded by mass media? Will a condolence book from an unknown audience ameliorate in any way the traumatic and intense grief that families would be going through? Does it lesson the affect of the sensory onslaught or, does it serve to embed what is orchestrated more thoroughly in our media mediated collective consciousness? To quote Waleed: '29 Australians were killed on Australian roads in the past week; 600 people (and rising) have been killed at Gaza - a third of whom are children'. Where is their condolence book? As a society, are we demonstrating racism or cultural bias in whom we choose to mourn? Are we mourning based on the particular means by which someone has died - upon the type of travesty, upon how close it is to home, upon how it is portrayed by media?
And what do we say to the proposal that we are a flock of sheep being directed by the whims of a money driven media milking a story for all its worth because there are Australians involved? Is that why there are condolence books and services being held left right and centre for this latest abysmal event? I feel sad, compassionate and incredulous that a missile in the midst of a territorial war targeted a passenger plane and so many innocent people were killed (300 humans) but hey, let's keep it in perspective. In comparison, how much airplay is the Taiwan place crash (47 humans) getting or, the Algerian disaster (110 humans) or, Gaza (600+ humans) for that matter?
All humans. These humans everywhere - alive and dead, living and suffering, hoping, believing, striving, seeing. All worthy. All entitled to consideration.
Personally, I refuse to yield and be dragged down by what could be an endless contemplation and a depressive wallowing in this existence, which can at times be quite absurd and disturbing. I choose to remain connected but non attached, compassionate but not stricken, interested but not embroiled, caring but not sorrowful, aware but not overwhelmed, slightly subjective but more so objective, informed but judgementally restrained, same but different, a part of but on the periphery, uplifted but not down trodden. I choose to stay connected to the source, to that what lies beneath, around and above to that which is not yet manifest - to that which is not a manifestation of human error and delusion.
I live in miserable, freezing, parochial Ballarat and find myself mildly dissatisfied, but then I wonder, about the occasional disappearance of my broader perspective...
Let's all memorise this profound quote:
“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.”
And embrace this wonder:
“We live on a thin crust over a bubbling mass of molten lava and the fuel of hell. What’s marvellous is that, in spite of everything, we’re alive. Do you understand? To make up for the suffering of the living, there’s the joy of life." ~ Sidney Nolan 1967