I crane my neck to look up at the military choppers flying over my neighbourhood.
This is the middle of Brisbane. Not the Middle East.
This is a safe place.
I live near a military base, so it’s not an odd sight to see soldiers in uniform at the grocery store. It’s a rarity to hear test firing or rarer still witness military fly overs.
Today I crane my neck and want to cry. Not because of what it means for me. But because of what I know this means for so many people around the world. I see and experience their reality when I close my eyes.
I hear the helicopters flying over a town in Syria, about to launch rockets at a militant hideout. I feel the fear that is in the hearts of countless people caught up in a fight they didn’t sign on for. I hear the cries of children as they walk along a dry, sand-lined road as their parents try to find a safe place for them to live. Away from the conflict. Into chaos.
We know that more than 130-thousand Syrians (mostly Kurds) have escaped into neighbouring Turkey in an attempt to find a safe place. We hear that Islamic extremists are rising up, not just in the Middle East, but popping up globally. Even here.
Humanity has a tendency of repeating itself. No doubt, a journalist or two will have already used the phrase “an exodus of biblical proportion” to describe the en masse move of Syrians. Clearly, we’ve seen this before.
Just at the end of last year, British news magazine The Economist drew a startling comparison between the global tensions of today with those that pre-dated the First World War. It said,
“The most troubling similarity between 1914 and now is complacency. Businesspeople today are like businesspeople then: too busy making money to notice the serpents flickering at the bottom of their trading screens. Politicians are playing with nationalism just as they did 100 years ago.”
This week, U.S. President Barack Obama said roughly 50 countries are teamed up to take down the Islamic State. That’s a whole lot of nations. Too many for us to ignore. Yet, Apple is making headlines while it deals with “bend-gate” because its latest iPhone is molding to users’ butts when in their pants pocket. And there’s the buzz over online merchant Alibaba’s IPO which debuted ahead of previous Internet wunderkind, Facebook. And at the same time, soda giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi are vowing to cut calories in their drinks to keep health conscious consumers.
It’s not just the businesspeople that The Economist points to who are in a bubble. It’s all of us. The Western World, as a whole, is distracted. We’re following the latest celebrity nude photo leak, instead of becoming educated global citizens to the unfolding human tragedy. We’re choosing which mocha-frappe-double-shot-hold-the-extra-whip drink to have while hundreds of thousands are waiting in line for their first real meal in days.
Sure, the fear that militants are recruiting in our own neighbourhoods is real. Yet, fear isn’t the answer. Fear doesn’t get us to care about the people on the other end of the equation. British statesman Edmund Burke is famously quoted as saying, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Right now our nothing is remaining complacent when people in the world need our attention. Most of it seems overwhelming. It’s just too big to deal with in my small life.
But it’s happening. And we ought to pay attention. It’s not a world away. It’s on our very…own…planet.