It is rainy and overcast today; it looked at one point as though there was…an unencumbered afternoon ahead in which to get some lingering work done, since we weren’t going anywhere.

BUT OF COURSE.  Given the opportunity to stare blankly into space, an object will stare blankly into space.  Basic physics, right?  Also when a DVD gets put in that an object wants to watch, that object will somehow find itself watching that DVD.  I have the discipline of a wet noodle at times.  (We’re watching “Life”, a tv show we somehow missed.  When we had television.  It’s good.)

But back, or on,  to compassion.  There was an interview on NPR with a woman who wrote a book about a slum in Mumbai located next to the airport and a passel of luxury hotels.  One observation she made that was even more striking than everything else she said, hard as that was because this is one amazing woman even though I never did get her name (driving! in car!), was that the level of moral compass declines when poverty is rampant, in part because corruption rises and every transaction has a price, and also because in such corruption the monitoring forces of society are also corrupt.  So people are hesitant to, say, help someone in distress in the street lest they be arrested or forced to pay a bribe themselves.  When you couple that with the obvious atrophy of the soul that allows people to  pass by such a place on the way to another place close by- that is so removed from the squalor and suffering that the people in the place of squalor can, if they’re lucky, make a living from the trash that the jetting by people toss out- without thinking, hey, there must be something I can do about this and let’s get a few people we know together.  Well, what you’ve got is not just a collapse of moral thinking, but a total, stark absence of it.

It’s interesting to me how humans can do that, segment, compartmentalize, categorize people and things and then disregard them.  While not always as egregious as the Mumbai slum, this habit people have of deciding that they don’t have to pay attention is problematic.    On a personal level, people may “decide” what you are “like” and since they’re not paying attention, that decision can be way, way wrong.  That decision can also affect your life Gentle Reader,  and not positively.  Then you get to spend (x) amount of time unravelling that decision and its effects and getting back to square one.   This dynamic is as true of a parent who cannot recognize who their child really is as it is of a culture that decides wholesale swathes of people just don’t count and can be dealt with in whatever way is easiest.  Like, watching them living in poverty or endlessly cycling through prison, or just seeing them give up on their own humanity.  Seeing them give up on helping each other.  Seeing them give up on paying attention.

So, I’m thinking that this mutilation of moral contiguity also leads to a mutilation of all human functions, like thinking independently.  And independent thinking isn’t always valued as highly as perhaps it should be.  So it’s even more important than we might have already thought to pay attention.  It’s hard to do sometimes, which probably accounts for why I’m still sneaking looks at “Life”. Even though it IS really good!  Ah, distraction how we love thee.



3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Wanda Brenni on February 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Beautifully stated.


  2. Katherine Boo! 😀

    And the book is called “Beautiful Forevers : Surviving Slum Life In Mumbai”


    • This is what happens when bears get lazy and Don’t Look Things Up. I THOUGHT that was her name but….ah well. Thank you! for adding it. She is totally amazing, I think.


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