“The one moon reflects itself wherever there is a sheet of water, and all the moons in the waters are embraced within the one moon.”
As a species, we harbor the curious tendency to revert to a strange dualism when observing global problems. We find it easy to understand and, in fact, intuitive that a global decline in oil production will affect our pocketbook, or that the poor environmental regulations of other nations can harm our air quality. These and other issues very clearly transcend borders. Indeed, these examples are so obvious and straightforward that it may seem silly to the reader for me to mention them.
And yet, when it comes to problems of a more social nature, compartmentalization occurs. A common question I’ve faced, even in my short, unremarkable career as a humanitarian and activist, is as follows: “Why are you working to address the issues over there? We have those same issues here.” Where, precisely, are the here and there are of little importance. The key concept which escapes the enquirer is that the problems of the here and the there are in fact the very same problem.
For some reason we remain blind to this singularity. We don’t believe, or are unable to see, how the extreme poverty, or lack of education, or of jobs, in other places and with other people damages our own lives and livelihood. We don’t believe, or are unable to see, that the lack of freedom and self-determination of the world’s disenfranchised dissolves and corrodes our own precious right to these same things.
Instead, we operate under the illusion that we can create an isolated society of perfection – that we, as Americans, or Iranians, or Chinese, or whatever title, can achieve utopia without the so-called others. And indeed, our shortsighted vision more often than not boils down to nationalism: American issues are American issues. Iranian issues are Iranian issues. Chinese issues are Chinese issues. What escapes us is the truth, which is a step further: Human issues are Human issues.
Human issues, as with all issues, ignore borders as do migratory birds or butterflies. The Human web is far greater and more interconnected than the economic web, or the environmental web, or any other, as it contains every other. Human lives and Human issues are a great storm of interconnectivity. All crises for all time – past, present, future – collide against our bodies daily, as we bob helplessly against the waves of our own bewilderment.
Only in the information era have we truly begun to physically sense these waves. They come at us in incomplete soundbites, sentences, and memes – our 24 hour news networks, our social media, our mail, our televisions, our radios. Maybe we’ve heard about some of the abovementioned problems. Maybe we’ve heard about all of them. But most of us have grown numb to them. The overwhelming force of our personal bewilderment, combined with a lack of spiritual acuity, prevents us from understanding our place among the waves. No wonder, then, that compartmentalization becomes our mode of course. Numbness is our escapism. Numbness focuses only on the immediate problems – the waves which hurt us, directly, the most.