The refugee crisis: Stop being so numb


Sometimes we get so drawn into life that we forget that life is about perception. A quote that has always hung dear to me: “real knowledge is to know the extent of your own consciousness.” Perception is enacted subconsciously – often causing us to forget to relate our motives and understandings to our original perspective. The quality of what we know and think is only as strong as the perception through which it is seen. The world is based on how we think things are, not how they are. Thus, in thinking how things are, we mustn’t forget that the world we see is a reflection, not an objective existence. This subjectivity allows us to exaggerate and to prioritise. It is our inability to remember this subjectivity of perception that has lead to our inhumane response to the refugee crisis.

You can argue that accepting refugees might increase unemployment or worsen our housing crisis. I am not here to critique these arguments – they may or may not be valid. I’m not an economist or a politician. I am a humanist. Whether or not the latter two are mutually exclusive, I make no comment.

It is easy to block out any pain or destruction that does not affect our everyday lives. Of course, this is necessary in order to get by in this troubled world. If you were to grieve over every injustice and pain, you could not function in everyday life.

However, our ever-strengthening ability to block out pain has lead to a numbing which we no longer control. In an age of mass media and ever growing connections, we are constantly made more aware of pain and suffering. Whether it be earthquakes or terrorism, the world catches on in seconds – all the more reason to become numb.

Yet this numbness only acts to benefit survival when taken in context. As soon as the numbness grows beyond our realisation, we forget that in being our naturally selfish selves, it is this numbness that allows us to be so inhumane. It is this numbness that allows us to stop treating other humans as humans. It is this numbness that allows us to see statistics as representative of pain. It is this numbness that allows us to feel that we can understand the tragedy of thousands through numbers. We trick ourselves into thinking that because we acknowledge this pain, we have the right to see it as less worthy than any bruising of our own country. Bruising is not death. Bruising is pain; but bruising is temporary, bruising can heal. Death cannot heal.

Pain is relative and subjective. However, I believe that less pain overall, is less painful. Rather utilitarian perhaps, but realistic if you ask me. Realistic to ask for life for some, at the expense of bruising to others.

In our numbness, we forget that these people are not asking for upgrades. These people are simply asking for life. Numbness is as deeply ingrained as is the existence of pain itself. It is hard to remove ourselves from the numbness. But we must try. We must try to understand that these people are fleeing for their lives. We must try to understand that a small sacrifice that may cause a bruise to our own country, could prevent the deaths of thousands. People are dying. People are desperate. I am not here to arouse emotion. I am here to make you remember. The process of your perception, and resultant numbing, prevents you from seeing that what may be a small burden on our country, is the path for the very existence of other people.

Our relationship with the world is mediated through mental representations. Our actions are not based on how things are, but on how we think things are. We have become caught up in such an abundance of pain, that allowing people to live is seen as too demanding. Life and freedom are too demanding for a democracy grounded on the notion of promoting life and freedom. This paradox can only be resolved through an understanding of perception – a perception of perception if you like. Sounds rather like inception perhaps, but to me the question of life or death shouldn’t be such a complex decision. Until death and destruction become a consequence of doing so – I will welcome refugees.

Photograph: Haeferl via Wikimedia Commons

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