Thursday, September 3, 2015

On Our Path to Losing Humanity

I usually try and stay away from political posts (even though I have a bachelors in international studies and a masters in public policy) because it's always a touchy subject.... like the dinner conversation topic you're never supposed to have. But in light of recent events... 

The one very thing I hate about NYC is that it often makes me feel ashamed of myself. It's not just because I've become a little bit more aggressive, or because I more easily lose my patience, but how NYC has changed the way I view and act towards those that are less fortunate than I am.

On a given day I pass by at least 3 homeless people, most of whom I encounter in the subways or at the subway stop. And in the beginning, new to the city, it bothered me to see so many homeless people in a city consisting of luxury penthouses and salaries well above the national average. It bothered me how people were able to walk right past someone without acknowledging their existence. And so, I would hand out dollar bills here and there knowing that it didn't amount to much.

But slowly, I begin to act the same. When speeches are made in subways asking for money, we take out our phones and pretend that there's something more important on our screens (even though there's no wifi). When we pass by someone who is clearly in need of shelter or medical help, we keep our eyes forward and keep walking. We stop caring because in truth, we believe that our needs are greater than the needs of others. The $5 we could spend giving to a person in need is $5 better spent on our lattes.

This act of "determining greater need" isn't just confined to NYC. In fact, if you've opened up the news you'll read that refugees/migrants are pouring into Germany, France, and Hungary. And in response, politicians have begun to set up stricter boarder controls, placed caps on the numbers admitted. David Cameron has gone as far as to say that Britain should not take on any more refugees. Hungary has gone on to say that it is Europe's moral duty to tell refugees not to come and that the refugee crisis is a "German" problem. The result has been hundreds of deaths by suffocation in hot trucks and drowning.

From a political/economical/security perspective, I understand the stress that the countries taking in refugees are in. Germany is expected to over 800,000 refugees/migrants this year, double that of last year. This is why, in a little over 10 days, when EU ministers meet to discuss plans on how Europe as a whole should proceed, the outcome of the meeting is crucial. Not only will their decisions impact the lives of thousands of refugees/migrants, but it will also set the tone of how we, as individuals, will view and treat the needs of other individuals.

When it became easy to "ignore" that guy in the subway asking for money, I realized that it was easier to do because I had stripped the guy of his humanity...who he is/was and everything that made him a person. I had re-labeled him as "just another someone looking for money".... And so I will be praying for the next couple of weeks for Europe and for the EU ministers gathering on the 14th. I will pray that they do not strip the humanity of and negatively redefine the very people whose lives matter. Otherwise, we too will slowly follow suit and start believing that our needs are greater.

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