The recent news about Ahmed and his clock, a Syrian father selling ball pens to take care of his daughter, a poor kid studying outside a McDonald’s store, and many other similar news have put a spotlight on our shortsightedness as a society. The common denominator among these stories is our tendency to take action on very important issues based mostly on its emotional appeal and very little about anything else.

These stories erupted in the news and social media. They were individual stories that tackles genuine issues of poverty, discrimination, and displacement from society brought about by the actions of others. While people around the world responded differently, their sympathizers were able to raise money to help them. Their lives turned around dramatically for the better overnight, thanks to the efforts of concerned individuals.

But the beautiful and heartwarming part of these stories is also what I think exposes our flaw as a society. Sure, they deserve all the help they can get and it’s not their fault that they are getting all the attention, but what are we doing for all the others who are in the same situation as they are, probably even worse? It looks to me like we are only affected because of the dramatic appeal, and the feeling fades just as soon as it engulfs us. I think there is something wrong with us collectively if we can give a full scholarship to a single kid but won’t do anything about the horrible status of education in the whole country or the world. Or that we can commend a young inquisitive mind for reassembling a digital clock but we ourselves participate in other forms of discrimination. Or that we can raise thousands of dollars for a single father trying to survive a chaotic war-torn life with his daughter but we won’t do anything about the poverty and oppression that is happening right in front of us.

I understand that each one of us probably can’t help every single person in need but it is a shame that we display the same attitude as a society. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when you realize that our chances of getting and giving help only increase based on the theatrical and emotional appeal of the situation.

Photo credit: Joyce Torrefranca

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