I recently listened to the speech Angelina Jolie made when she won the Humanitarian award in 2013. She stated that she didn’t understand why she was given a life that allowed her to follow her dreams and go to bed without wondering how she will feed her children, while a woman with the same abilities and desires as her doesn’t have this joy simply because she was born in another part of the world.
I don’t understand it either and I never will. Why was I given the perfect childhood when other people never even got one? Why was I given the opportunity to travel the world when other people only want to escape from it? Why do I willingly leave my home when others would do anything to return to theirs? Why do I lie in my bed worrying about growing up when other people never get the chance to?
These are the questions that I’ve started to seriously wonder about and I’ve realized that no matter how many times I ask myself, I’ll never come to an answer because there is none. It’s simply the sad truth of life. It’s the reason people should complain that life is unfair. It’s unfair that children are born into war, that young people are flung into it, and that people die before they’ve had a chance to live. When I think about when I was born and where I was born, I was one of the lucky ones. I was born into the arms of loving parents, on a bed with blankets and pillows, in a peace-filled country. But somewhere else in the world there’s another twenty-three year old girl, also born on June 2, 1992, who has only ever known hunger, fear, and war. Why?
In light of certain events, I’ve realized just how sheltered my life has been. Even travelling has only expanded my vision to some degree. I haven’t seen famine, I haven’t seen poverty, I haven’t seen war, I haven’t seen hopelessness. Europe has mostly shown me the cruelties and injustices of the past – and it was the blindly optimistic child inside of me that chose to believe that all these bad things actually were in the past. Going to the concentration camp, visiting the Anne Frank House, listening to stories about the cruelties of past wars…they were chapters found in history textbooks, events people wrote books about, topics people based movies on. On one hand, they felt too far away to be able to hurt me. On the other, they were things my Omi and Opi lived through. Things that occurred less than 100 years ago. Now when I think about the crisis in Syria – and how my kids will eventually learn about it in history class – it seems incredibly near and unprogressive of the world. It’s not the past; it’s the present. And it will likely be the future too.
I always chose to believe that the world was better; that we as humans were better too. Not perfect, but better. I don’t know if I believe that anymore. I don’t know what I believe in anymore, to be honest. I’ve always tried so hard to believe the world is ultimately good despite everything bad that has happened in it. Perhaps this blind belief stems from the fact that I haven’t been personally exposed to the hardship, sorrow, and pain that is a reality for most of the people in this world. When reading an article or looking at a photo showing the horrid lives of many people, I would feel badly about it, maybe make a donation, maybe talk about it with my friends, and then close the tab and continue on with my perfect life consisting of second helpings of food after every meal, new clothes when I want them, a good education, opportunities to follow my dreams, and loving people surrounding me.
Now I think I have to look closely at the world. I will force myself to look and I will hold my gaze as I stare into the eyes of poverty, sickness, hopelessness and sorrow, no matter how badly I want to look away. Because I can’t hide from it forever. It’s real – very, very real – and I can’t ignore it anymore. If I turn out a little more cynical, hard-hearted, and pessimistic because of it, so be it. I’m too old to keep living in this ideal world of my carefully constructed imagination.
But when I do see it, what do I do then? What can any of us do? After the attack on Paris happened, I was on the train gloomily staring out the window at the falling rain and thinking about all the wars, and bombings, and man-inflicted pain that was occurring in that very moment. I was thinking about how the rest of the world would retaliate against the wrong-doers. How it would lead to more war, more bombings, more man-inflicted pain.
Sometimes it seems to me that we are destroying ourselves: the world is slowly committing suicide.