Tuesday September 17, 2019
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Selective sensitivity and cool quotient of crises

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credit: www.premiumtimesng.com

By Ajeet Bharti

Do you remember that Syrian toddler who was washed ashore? Yes, the kid in red shirt, tiny shoes, face down in sands of time (pun intended)… must have wrenched your heart. It is also likely that you remember the Charlie Hebdo killings. How about Boko Haram? You must have read or heard it somewhere, may be, in your Facebook news feed.

If you are on social media, chances are you have (at least once) thought to change your profile picture to ‘black dot’ or a ‘candle burning with a dark background’ to ‘show solidarity’.

We, as humans, feel for fellow beings. That’s what makes us humane. However, what appals one is, the show of solidarity for a cause is often detached from its purpose. The show of solidarity, on social media, is limited to hashtags. It is more about ‘he/she has a black dot in profile, I must have it too’. This ‘solidarity show’, many times, is often a result of ignorance or of hot trends.

In Hindi there is a term for it: bhed chaal (herd mentality). Being sensitive has become a cosmetic phenomenon rather than the true meaning of the word. Often done in peer pressure, because everyone is doing it, people just do it anyway. When asked about the details, they draw a blank.

In India, more people have died of cold in the winters than the deaths as a result of Boko Haram or ISIS attacks. Assam, in the North East, faces flood every single year. People get displaced, they die in the flood and after it, but somehow there are no black dots in our profile pictures.

Unless it is trending, no one, neither the mainstream Indian media nor people, cares. Our sensitivity looks for cool quotient of the news. Would sharing the image of a Syrian kid, face down in sands, be good enough for a projection of my sensitive self? People in Assam, Vidarbha, Andhra are dying in hundreds due to unnatural reasons, I haven’t seen a black dot for it.

It takes an article with lot of adjectives cramped in phrases like, ‘humanitarian crisis’, ‘death of humanity’, ‘humanity cries’, ‘humanity died, again’ to make us realise, we need to react to it. The reaction is, again, limited to a symbolism.

It is rare to see a debate or discussion on such crises on Facebook. Apart from monosyllabic ‘oh’ and ‘ah’, other emotional expressions are rare.

The thing is: our insensitivity becomes apparent when we show selective sympathy. There is no wrong in having a black dot for a Syrian toddler or Charlie Hebdo. There is nothing wrong in walking with candles in hand for Nirbhaya. There is nothing wrong in protesting on roads against miscarriage of justice.

The larger issue is when some Nido Taniyam is killed, when a Loitham Richard is killed, when your countrymen from North East are driven away and you are not aware of it.

It is convenient for us to say that people from North East don’t feel like being Indians without even having interacted with one of them. When your mainstream media, your Facebook, and your Twitter feed is limited to a hashtag trend, your outlook towards your own brethren would have to be limited.

How many times we make an effort to even click an article that speaks about the ‘farmer suicides’, ‘violence in North East’, ‘youth killed in Kashmir’, ‘three dead due to cold’, ‘several die due to heatwave’, ‘protests in Manipur turns violent‘ and the likes?

Maybe, it is not cool enough to be shared. Maybe, the tribals from Nagaland (which is not in Europe, as some of you might assume) aren’t cool enough to inform yourself about the same. Maybe, the whole idea of unity in diversity is dying a slow death due to sectarian beliefs and our discriminatory attitude.

It is not just us but, even in the contentlessness of 24×7 media, mainstream media doesn’t care about it. At times, an IPL match becomes more important than national policy on education.

The brutality of the fact is, we are ok with it. Apart from a limited number of groups, most of us don’t know or, even when we do, we don’t feel compelled to complain or have an opinion.

Compassion shouldn’t depend on how a news piece is being covered. With news media getting monopolised by likes of Rupert Murdoch and Vineet Jain’s Times Group, we can make use of social media which is truly democratic.

People would have to realise the power of free information flow on social media and how it can bring about a change in our world (and others’). Cosmetic, cool, black dot sensitivity hasn’t done any good to anyone. It is the thought process that needs to be changed.

Thinking is getting scarce and Hamletian ‘to click or not to click’ is taking over sensible thoughts. Before you click, and change your profile picture, try to know about the situation bereft of adjectives that (apparently) concerns humanity. Before you tap on ‘share’, try to write a paragraph about why that issue needs attention.

Being sensitive is not a choice, it just comes to us unless we have conditioned ourselves to quantify the intangible.

Next Story

Midwest Farmers Dealing with Flood Water in a Planting Season

“Never had anything like this before. Not this kind of a flood,” said Geisler, who is still in a daze and trying to grasp all his losses

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Midwest Farmer 'Still In A Daze' At What The Devastating Flood Left Behind. VOA

Tom Geisler has experienced many ups and downs in his 43 years of farming, as weather sometimes helped and often hurt his livelihood. But he was not prepared for what Mother Nature brought this spring.

“Never had anything like this before. Not this kind of a flood,” said Geisler, who is still in a daze and trying to grasp all his losses. In March, melting snow from a harsh winter combined with a “bomb cyclone” storm caused historic flooding in the fields and communities across the Midwest.

Geisler cultivates corn, soy beans and hay, and raises cattle on 162 hectares (400 acres) of his family’s farm near Hooper, Nebraska. The water has mostly receded, but it left a mess in his fields, and his 134-year-old farm house is unlivable.

Bad timing 

In 10 minutes, Geisler said, water filled his basement and crept into his home. During the worst of the flood, he helplessly listened as his recently born calves cried in distress.

“(They were) bawling all night. Just about made us heartbroken, but they survived. I thought they’d be gone,” Geisler remembered. “(I) couldn’t even get to my calves. It was five foot (1.5 meters) deep out there. I couldn’t even feed them. Two calves are completely gone. They floated away and two cows died.”

Timing is bad since it is calving season. Geisler hopes the rest of his cattle recover from the stress of standing in icy water for long periods of time. As for his land, after it dries up, he will have to clear some areas of sand deposits before he can start planting late in the growing season this spring. He estimates the floods did $100,000 in damages to the fences around his farm.

“We lived on this place for 32 years since I’ve been married to my wife, Frances. … My mother’s been at her place all of her life. She’s 90 years old, and she’s never seen anything like this, either.”

Extreme weather 

Geisler said in the last three years, the weather has been more wet and “extreme” and the storms are “getting intense.”

“We haven’t had a good week of weather since the first week of August of last year. It’s been raining every one or two days every week since then,” he said.

He said over the course of 40 years, farmers may have made the problem worse by switching to row crops like corn instead of grass, alfalfa and small grains such as wheat to feed cattle.

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Tom Geisler farms corn, soy beans, hay and cattle. He lost two cows and two calves in the flood. (Photo: Elizabeth Lee / VOA)

“Now, it’s almost all row crops, so a lot of the water just runs off. I think that has affected our flooding quite a bit.” Geisler explained. “Just really be nice if we all had a patch of grass to hold some water back. Too much land has been highly erodible that’s in row crops right now, I think.”

About six years ago, many farmers replaced grass with corn because of the demand for ethanol and an “excellent” export market, Geisler said.

He pointed to topsoil that had washed away from the fields. He said it takes 100 years to make an inch (2.54 cm) of topsoil, and “probably half an inch is gone. So, that’s 50 years worth of soil.”

ALSO READ: Arab States Face Water Supply Emergency, Problems Complicated by Climate Change: UN

One day at a time

Geisler said he will work on repairing the flood damage one day at a time. His younger son, a future farmer, will help.

“We’ve always been resilient, so hopefully we can come back (and) farm some more. I’m the fifth generation of farmers, so hopefully we can continue that trend. I don’t want to give up. Sometimes you feel like it, but I don’t want to.” (VOA)