Tuesday, March 15, 2011
When opinion and perspective clash with fact and truth
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."
Forgive my presumptuousness at second guessing the good emperor or adding to his philosophy but fact and truth have a nasty habit of smacking unsuspecting fools caught up in their own little worlds up side the head. And if ever there was a time fact and truth crashed in on Americans it was the sight of massive walls of water slamming into the Japanese coast and pushing aside the best efforts of humanity like a petulant child tossing toys in a fit of anger. Add the tragic follow up images of people wandering around decimated towns and villages looking for lost loved ones or some scrap of the life that existed the day before and you have a situation that is enough to startle the most jaded and self-absorbed among us
In a way it is beyond forgiveness that it takes such an event to shake Americans out of their delusion that the world and its peoples revolve around them. As a country that in some ways rightly prides itself on its charity and willingness to help others maybe its best that we do not examine our generosity too closely. Recent disasters that hit both Chile and New Zealand were quickly forgotten in the light of our insipid political battles and the latest antics by the Hollywood elite. Only the plight of Chilean miners trapped deep underground caught our attention long enough to muscle out our dear elected leaders calling each other nasty names while questioning the patriotism of those that oppose them. Of course, such behavior can always be justified by the conveniently rented pundits who find numerous ways to count the angels dancing on the heads of pins just the way the people who sign their paychecks want.
But such is life in this day and age, in the coming days scores of private relief agencies will have their fifteen minutes of news cycle fame as tons of emergency aid is collected, loaded, and sent off to those desperate people in Japan. Bright eyed and smiling reporters will record for the evening news all the good people shedding tears of joy at the outpouring of compassion and generosity meant for that battered nation. This is all fantastic and very much the right thing to do but as always our collective attention span is short and before long the high paid Hollywood publicists and well groomed politicians will find ways dominate the news again.
The shame in this, as far as I am concerned, is that the same people appalled at the human suffering in Japan many times ignore the deep suffering right here at home or in nations that do not serve our vital interests. Sure, the usual fair and balanced commentators will spout off reasons why those less fortunate in this country need an incentive to make them work harder and that those living in third-world countries probably deserve what happens to them. This will satisfy those believers in American Exceptionalism and they will either return to their fears about the current boogieman hiding under the bed out to destroy the Republic or to the latest deranged, attention-seeking celebrity waiting for him or her to wrap their expensive car around a telephone pole.
Neither is a behavior that any sane people would celebrate but none of us have a choice in what era we live and our only course of action is to make the best of the time we have hoping it leads the way to a more enlighten and rational age for us all. Because nothing is going to change until we set aside our petty pursuits and prejudices and the bulk of humanity learns that we are all in this together and that in the end all we truly have is each other.