Writers' Fortnight selection: Have we become blind?
How our modern society fosters a willing ignorance of the world’s problems
By Min Seo Shin, Grade 9, East Campus
One in nine girls in the developing world marry before the age of nine – a fact uncovered by the International Center for Research on Women that leads to shock and outrage.
But why are people shocked, really? How has an issue that affects so many girls around the world completely bypassed you in daily life?
No matter what happens in the world, even the war in Syria which has claimed 10,204 lives according to the website “I AM SYRIA”, even if 15 million girls are forced to marry before the age of 18, even if the Rohingya are being slaughtered in Myanmar it seems as if though it doesn’t affect us one bit.
We’ve been called the bubble wrap generation. Quite frankly, it’s true. As an article in Forbes by Kathy Caprino says today’s children have been insulated “from healthy risk-taking behavior”. We’ve been protected, yes, but also blindfolded. A willful ignorance of sorts has set in. We know these things happen, sure, everyone knows child marriage, for example, does happen. But people simply do not wish to comprehend the scale or the human impact of such issues. These things have become nothing more than words on a page or just photos of those we do not know. No one cares. Not really. A few people, sure. But on the grand scale I honestly think that willful ignorance is the greatest problem in modern society.
Take refugees for example. It is beyond astonishing how politicians and ordinary people alike can, in good conscience, argue for simply leaving them to die when lives could be saved by opening the doors and allowing these people in. In fact, just this year, according to The Guardian, President Trump is planning to cap refugee admissions at 45,000. The lowest in 3 decades. In support of this statement: It is beyond astonishing how politicians and ordinary people alike can, in good conscience, argue for simply leaving them to die when lives could be saved by opening the doors and allowing these people in, it may be more useful to cite instances where political anti-immigration decisions have led to deaths.
At times I fear what seems to be the gradual deterioration of the human race. By all means, I am grateful for being able to live in relative safety, and yet I wonder if humans were truly ever meant to live in such a bubble. What this illusory safe bubble has brought with it is a complete stripping away of perspective on what actually matters. In other words, why bother to care when you can just watch Netflix? The problem, fundamentally, seems to be that our best qualities seem inherently tied to pain.
An article in Scientific American by Daisy Grewal for example references several studies which show that wealth reduces compassion leading researchers to speculate that “wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others”. Or in other words that “The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings”
It is hardship that causes us to have to rely on others. Without that, many people will simply stop caring about those around them since they have all their needs already met and feel entitled to the privileges they have.
The success of the modern world at removing people completely from those facing hardship has led to a generation (or several) of individuals who lack compassion, understanding, appreciation and basic decency.
A study from the University of Michigan which analyzed the personality tests of 13,737 students over 30 years even said that “Today’s college students are 40 percent less empathetic than those of the 1980s and 1990s.” It is quite clear here that something is wrong.
A life dominated by social media, video games, and Netflix has directly made us into superficial human beings. The thoughts dominating our minds is on how many likes we get on Instagram, planning the day out in Universal Studios, and thinking of how to convince our parents to let us spend longer playing video games on our laptop. It’s the constant stream of garbage running through our head that rots away the heart. When the things you care about most are things that don’t really matter, then soon nothing will matter to you anymore.
This isn’t a call to return to the 18th century. They had more problems than we do and that would solve one problem and create a thousand more. However, it is clear that our modern lifestyle is what is causing the problems in the world today. It has become too easy to stop being grateful for what we have.
Look to the USA for example, where those who live in a relatively rich and safe country continuously vote for candidates who would leave to die those fleeing from bombings.
The dissatisfaction of the white working class is often said to have contributed heavily to Trump’s victory. These are said to be people who don’t have enough rising against the establishment. However, even though those who vote for such candidates might feel less privileged than others in the country, they are still failing to see that anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies often impact those even less fortunate.
Remove someone enough from hardship and they stop seeing the hardship of others too. We live in a prison. One built not of suffering but of superficiality. Though that in turn amplifies suffering. The central problem in the world today isn’t all the wars and tragedies it is the fact that humanity has degenerated to such an extent that we no longer want to fix problems despite having the resources to do so.
This student article was selected for publication among the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writings. The assignment to students was to tell the story of someone they met during Writers’ Fortnight who they feel embodies an important social issue - OR to use the stories of several speakers to engage with a shared human experience - OR to write about a matter of personal importance - and to do so as authentically, responsibly and powerfully as possible.
To explore more of the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writing, please view our Flipboard.