Where’s your line?

By Stephen Broadbent

Consider idleness and its sources in governing how
we as a western society react to crisis in the world. Lately, it seems the suffering in Kosovo has monopolized media agendas and dominated conversation. The tense, repugnant smell of war has been injected into the air around us. We are appalled at the terror and injustice taking place thousands of miles away. But I ask, what have you done other than put on a face of pity and disgust at the sight of the latest news footage, or express your concern to a few friends over a cup of coffee? Somehow, we feel that feeling bad is enough to satisfy our sense of moral obligation to our fellow men and women.

Even I am guilty of trying to convince myself that I feel more emotion than I really do. Does this make me insensitive or immoral? Of course, if I felt the pains of all who suffer, I would be overcome with grief and depression. It is a natural and unavoidable defense mechanism to detach ourselves. So where should the line of indifference fall? When does emotional detachment begin to restrict my reasonable obligation to help those in need and when does it begin to strip away my humanity? Perhaps I should give every spare dollar I can to help starving refugees. Perhaps I should hop on a plane
tomorrow to Macedonia and pass out rations. Perhaps we all should. But we don’t, and that leads me to question our way of life.

Young western minds seem to sit in idleness, never challenged, with our beliefs hovering above our television sets.

From birth we view our lives blessed with freedom- children of the new world of opportunity, ambassadors of strength and perseverance. It is an arrogance we can’t help but fall into. Yet, in all this humdrum I wonder how many
of us truly have the emotional strength it takes to die for your way of life with pride. Many of us have enough trouble staying on top of current events, let alone taking action for their causes. Are we prepared to back them up with our lives?

The threat of a major, perhaps even world, war is not that far fetched. Ask yourself on a personal level, there are no witnesses, how willing would you be to fight, across an ocean of unfamiliar terrain, for the lives of your suffering fellow men and women? Maybe the threat to your family and friends is merely a glimpse of possibility, but you are called for duty to save and extinguish the lives of strangers. These are questions not easily answered. I like to think I would not stand down, that I would step up for my beliefs in the value of life and freedom. In truth, I will never know until tested.

When the ball drops what are your fears? Is it taking the life of someone who looks like you, acts like you and faces you with the same humanity. Does the knowledge that your enemy is not evil, but merely lives in a different place under a different cultural blanket, spawn your apprehension. Or is it fear of death that lends to your slight of step into battle; perhaps the result of religious erosion in our part of the world over the last century. The ever-popular agnosticism is a tidy way of relieving us
the burdens of religion while preserving our hopes of eternal life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much for our faith in the goodness of our souls.

Close your eyes, take your ass out of that safe cushy chair and put it on the battlefield. Envision it; a fog of death settled across the terrain, chaotic flashing with muffled noise, rifle in hand. The opposing figure appears before you. Where is your mind; racing with fear and indecision or racing with fear and certainty?

It seems many of us, especially the young, cast off the issues and realities of war to history, to a fading heroism and tyranny. We fail to genuinely consider the possibility for ourselves. Instead we use it to gauge a sense of morality we don’t fully understand. As simply put by Erasmus, “war is sweet to those who don’t know it.”

Still I wonder, would we as a society do as our grandparents did and those before them? Would we fight on the beaches and the rooftops and in the streets? Would we never surrender, or has our security in a sense of right and pride faded into idleness.

And here I write while thousands suffer and our countries inch toward war.

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