One of the perks of Ropa de Relief is the affinity people often have towards the mission. More often than not, as friends learn about the work we do, they offer to help or even do some writing for us. My handsome friend, Jake Bartelds (fellow Dune enthusiast) wrote a short, but sweet essay that addresses the wider issues we face as a species and as a planet. While Ropa is primarily focused on medical work, we are acutely aware of the “big picture”, and Jake’s essay discusses the heart of the issues we all face. Enjoy…
The American Dream, is shrouded by apathy. We live in “The First World” and everything outside need not exist or impose itself onto the American household. Philanthropers attempting to raise awareness and funds for a noble cause like providing medical aid to Haitians or consistent meals and clean water to African children are treated much, if not exactly the same as hungry solicitors selling some needless device. The “Nuclear Family” seems somewhat blind (intentionally or not) to the pain and suffering others share in. We all suffer in our own ways yet it seems some are dead-set to suffer alone. It’s quite easy to disregard stories of injustice and tragedy but once confronted with a human manifestation of pure pain and hardship most would lend their ear and perhaps a hand to help. It is all too easy to shy away from those in need when the pervasive cultural belief is that hardship is a part of social evolution and Darwin’s theory of evolution applies to governments, economies and social constructs of all kinds. Suffering is not necessary and if we suffered together as one homogeneous body things would be much different.
You may ask “How do we suffer together? Why suffer at all?” Well, you’ve already addressed your own question. If humans experienced hardship on a global and communal scale would our camaraderie not be exponentially increased? Would mutual understanding not be completely achieved? The subject-based effects of empathy would be negated and everyone would know exactly how poor living standards can be, and how unnecessary it is for so many to experience nothing but pain. Buddhists assert that life is pain, suffering and not much else. They teach that we are caught in a cycle of death and rebirth into a hellish land filled with dangers for some and luxuries for others. A mutual suffering could eliminate the need to shout towards the sky for answers. One could simply look inwards or towards their fellow human. You may respond with “But I don’t want to live like that, I don’t want to suffer.” You’re tapping in to a deeply seated desire to diminish one’s own suffering. This is universal, regardless of race, sexual orientation, nationality, or political beliefs. Just acknowledging this elementary idea proves that the tendency to dehumanize those who are not your neighbors, coworkers and family can be defeated. The world is much larger than your home, town and country, though it seems distance may dull our sense of empathy.
Contrary to fascist and Stalin-Lenin communist doctrine, you are not actually required to suffer for the greater good, you are only required to care for your family. As a member of the human race, your family is at an outstanding eight billion and counting. If the US, China, England and Russia dismantled their militaries there would be close to one trillion US dollars in excess funds needing to be spent. If these funds were used to fight poverty and hunger most would agree that substantial strides could and would be made to completely decimate world hunger. “But what about the soldiers? That’s their livelihood you’re taking?” is an expected response to the solution posed. These soldiers, if they so chose to could become aid workers. This workforce building homes and schools, digging wells and flying in supplies would overwhelm the problems faced today and ensure a fertile land for the children of tomorrow. Places like Haiti could be a haven for both the mind and body, the natural beauty embraced and cherished. Just as the human race must be healed, the Earth must also come to bloom once again. Instead of building missiles, assault aircraft and firearms the scientists employed by governments around the world could be free to search for a permanent solutions to global warming, which is something that affects every living thing on this planet.
The answer is rather simple, yet the problem is daunting. Complacency runs rampant in not only the United States, but most if not all of the West. We must strive to associate ourselves with suffering rather than shying away or shutting the door. Life as we know it is often frightening and discouraging, but we must climb our obstacles and lunge forward to the next until life is fair and enjoyable for all of us. These thoughts aren’t utopian; they are the purest and most urgent form of necessity. To survive we must strive together.