With the recent attacks in Paris, and Beirut, we find sides being taken on to mourn and who to condemn as if one set of victims takes president over the other. It is time to assess whether it is even possible for any of us to adequately pay the deserved attention to these events with a 24 hour news cycle, , and a western anglo coverage bias. But even with the internet democratizing media, we could not consume all the news that there is to consume in a single day and productively live our lives. So this presents a problem of time and attention vs, stimuli. Economics would say we have to pick, but the question is how?
Some say we should just follow our passions and support the causes that are nearest and dearest to us. This way we can live closest to our authentic self and not compromise our beliefs to be something we are not. The interesting thing about this notion is that it doesn’t necessarily lead to a “better” world. There are many of us that are passionate about a cause, that has damaging repercussions on other people, that infringes on their rights and opportunity to life fulfilling lives. See gentrification. In areas where there is a lack of jobs, they fight for the deregulation, tax cuts, or rezoning that would allow for those jobs to enter. Once these companies open up, the same community now has to deal with gentrification.
Since every action comes with an equal but opposite reaction we can’t help but take the good with the bad but is that even possible when we are all trying to make the world “better”. Are we simply making it different, only rearranging the same pieces into different configurations? In doing that, are any of our efforts even worth it?
This line of thinking quickly lends itself to a nihilistic perspective, that it is all meaningless, and no matter what we do, the world will always be the same as it is. In some respects this is true. There is an ever present balance to the universe, nature, etc that maintains this greater order. What is meaningful to us is a much more nuclear set of life experiences and choices. So while we can say that the world as a whole is perpetually balanced and shifting, it does not mean those shifts are insignificant.
Though we may be caught in an endless paradigm of causes and effects we can still can not rest. Just as the Earth continues to rotate on its access we are bound to movement and change through our biology. This non static state effects our ideology as well. So we are tied to action, and it is there we find confusion about how to act and where to direct our attention. Do we lean towards our beloved Paris and mourn a nation that has close ties to America. Or do we focus the attention where is not being shined on a nation, Beirut that receives so little resource and attention. Or do we let our hearts decide knowing that there is a bias within us we may be succumbing to?
The third option while nobel, devalues both in some way. Paying partial attention to either, generically referring to them as “victims” or “lost lives” but is that all we have time for? A 2 second moment of silence for nameless victims? Or should we take a day of work to research and learn the names of each casualty in this wretched conflict. It would be more human surely, but terribly in practical. Are we not here to challenge the merits of practicality? Or are there some chronological, biological, and geographic absolutes that we must observe?
It is a hard day when there is so much death that there isn’t enough time for all the thoughts of condolence that are needed. And in a world where we the list of casualties continues to grow this challenge will only grow harder.