Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Oh Dear-ism'

As we move into an age of ‘Oh Dear-ism’ otherwise known as the phenomenon of ‘distant suffering’ where we become so overloaded by global issues like war in the Middle East, Earthquake in Japan, piracy in Somalia, HIV epidemic in South Africa, Genocide in Zimbabwe etc, etc, etc….. that we just don't feel anything anymore when such images of hollow-eyed depressed African children covered in flies with swollen bellys' are broadcast across our TV screens; our TVs may be switched on but we have switched off. 

The concept of ‘Oh Dearism’ was pioneered by the ever controversial Adam Curtis he argues that we have become immune to bad news because we are exposed to it daily- It leaves many of us feeling helpless and depressed to which our response eventually becomes a simple: ‘Oh Dear’. 
Although ‘Oh Dear-ism’ has been recently identified and labeled by Curtis, it is not a recent development, it actually began in the late 1960s with the rise of the counter-culture movement. This apathy has since escalated and suffering in media leaves us apathetic and unable to act on problems we are exposed to. Suffering usually provokes a feeling of pity or at least indignation yet the effects have steadily dulled and have lost their intensity.
I have never had an ‘oh dear’ reaction to this form of news or media (although maybe this is because I don’t watch or read enough news). I have always had an intense cocktail of feelings brewing inside me made up of: anger, intense sadness, anxiety and sympathy. Although I have to admit that these feelings are intensified by my feeling of helplessness in many cases but I am a firm believer that “what’s the point of me doing anything, I’m only one person” is the WRONG attitude. The problem behind this clichéd mentality is that it easily spreads hand-in-hand with ‘Oh Dear-ism’ and results in nobody doing anything except direct all their focus on developing their own selfish lives built around the consumerism trap: ‘I buy therefore I am’. This only intensifies problems via the environmental costs of the materialist Western lifestyle which usually puts strains on the Global South who are reaping the negative effects first.
Anyway, the thing that I’m doing to make a change (as insignificant as it may be in the bigger picture) is working in a community centre in Palestine offering free lessons to children- many of whom are from a neighbouring refugee camp. I was lucky enough to attend one of the best schools in Europe due to the generous charity of others and I would like to give back in the same respect. Education opens doors for many of these children who have nothing and is the only opportunity presented to them as a way to elevate themselves out of poverty. English is particularly useful as the Palestinian economy is in tatters as a result of strict occupation and it means that they could work for foreign companies and organizations (of which there are many inside West Bank Palestine especially).
I’m not doing this to make myself feel like a better person. Anybody who has known me for the past three years could see that I was quite depressed on the return from my previous trip to Palestine, all the stories of suffering and pain are quite difficult to deal with and I carried this round with me for a long time, feeling like the ghost of Christmas Future. It would be much easier for me to shut my eyes and switch off BBC News at six like so many others do to stay happy but I don’t want to take that route, it’s the long and hard path for me…. tally ho!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! It's a condition that is also referred to as 'compassion fatigue' - similar to the 'desensitization towards violence in video games' argument, the more the media show the public these images the less shocking they become and the more apathy grows towards them, most people feel there is nothing they can do so why bother! Thankfully that is not the case with everyone!