It can’t be that hard, right? I mean, the human race has the technology and the ability to feed the hungry, to house those living out-of-doors not by their own preference, to educate those who know the only future forward is to learn. Most of the folks whom I have met have, at some point in their lives, needed just a little help moving forward. I myself was homeless for a time, and though I was extremely lucky (in that I always tend to land upon my feet), I also had more help than most, and more than I necessarily deserved. At the point when the time for life-changing decisions were made, I would say that I wasn’t much of a better prospect for pulling it together than anybody else in my situation. I suppose I did manage to pull myself up by my bootstraps, but there was a whole team of supporting players who were steadying me off camera, or I most certainly would have fallen flat upon my face. Because pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is physically untenable, and unless you have some kind of freakish, mutant upper-body strength, you’re probably not going to do it. At least not on your own. And, of course, you have to believe that there’s even a point in trying.
Once upon a time, when I was young, and in love, I tried to hold myself up as a mirror to someone determined to fade away. I thought that by sacrificing myself, she might come to see the value of my love for her, and, in turn, find the value in herself. I was young, and amazingly good at grand, romantic gestures that have no place in rational discussions. It took me years to realize that I couldn’t help her. Even after we’d been broken up for quite some time, I still would find a moment or two to chastise myself for the damsel in distress who I let get away. It offended my very sensibilities that I knew what was wrong, knew what had to be done, and yet was rebuffed even before I could make the attempt. Was my love a good love? I can finally say, without beating myself up from head to toe, that it was probably not a love that was meant to last. Sure, it was grand, and passionate, and everything to which fictional characters could ever hope to aspire, but it wasn’t the kind of love that makes things better. It wasn’t understanding. My love was a galleon of conquistadores spilling out upon the shores of the New World. In some regards, it still is. But it’s smarter now. It uses Black Ops and intelligence gathering to achieve much the same goal without the necessity of smallpox.
That last paragraph kind of got away from me a little. That may, in fact, be the most disturbingly accurate representation of my love life that I have ever put to paper. I don’t know how I feel about that. Or myself. Come on, Tex. It’s just a metaphor. Shake it off! And the worst part of that entire peek into the twisted corners of my psyche, is that I never actually quite got to the point: You cannot save someone who doesn’t want saving. Help proffered is often rejected out of hand by those too proud or stupid to know when they cannot do it all alone. Okay, maybe I’m still a little bitter. It’s not even that I am still in love with her. But she told me how to save her, and I lacked the will to get her through it. I know that it’s unreasonable to expect a teenager to succeed where counselors and rehab could not, but I’m arrogant, and I don’t like losing, especially when the stakes are a person’s very soul (or whatever the atheist equivalent may be). How am I still on this? I thought it was a joke, but it turns out my issues do, in fact, have issues!
Now I cannot help but wonder if I’ve come to want to save the world as some sort of proxy for the woman whom I could not. Talk about inflation. That’s like a seven billion percent increase. Well, I suppose that if the task wasn’t impossible and entirely insane, it wouldn’t have fallen to me in the first place.
We have the resources. We have the technology. We have the modes of transportation. All we lack is the will to make it happen. And while we wait, all caught up in the dramas of our own lives, people are actually dying. They didn’t deserve it. Even if they happened to make a series of poor decisions that would cause even me to reconsider medication, that’s not the point. And I’m not just talking about those poor wretches in foreign countries where they don’t even have the decency to learn English. It’s happening right here. Kids are literally starving. Parents have to make the choice between food, clothing, or a visit to the doctor. The cheapest food is the worst which one might consume. The rich kids are spirited away to walled-in institutions where they might actually (if accidentally) acquire an education, while their exodus has left the rest of us in substandard districts where a parent’s only hope is that their kid might not get shot today. It’s not right.
Poverty is not a sin, especially if you are born into it. So much is shouted about the rights of the unborn (Sorry, I have to pause right now because an image of toddling fetuses shambling about in search of “miiiiiiillllkkk….” has inappropriately popped into my head), but no one is legislating protections anymore for anyone who’s exited the womb. There is a reason that our children are immature for such a length of time that causes waves of chuckling throughout the rest of the animal kingdom: we must teach each successive generation, and they must mature alongside that knowledge. A newborn is no more capable of fending for himself than he was just the day before, all safely wrapped up in his mother’s uterus. My son is almost eight years old, and, through no fault of his own, is in no way capable of most things adults can do on autopilot. He knows how to do things, but his judgement is impaired because he is overwhelmed by curiosity while simultaneously completely free of common sense. He has not yet had the decades of experience required to size up a situation and do must be done. Mostly, he just makes fart jokes.
But we all lack decades of experience when it comes to most things in this world. If you dropped me into South America, I don’t know that I would survive longer than a month, and it has nothing to do with language or level of civility: our cultures raise us up to face the problems inherent to the region. Language soon follows suit. There’s a reason that a culture based out of the extreme northern reaches might have a couple dozen words to differentiate the different types of frozen precipitation. We are, each of us, a specialist of survival in our own little areas by the time we reach the age of majority, and even then, only if we’re lucky. Everyone knows something which you do not. Everyone brings something to the table. Why is it then, that in this world connected by the speed of thought, when the globe is smaller than it has ever been, that we are all so far apart?
I’ll leave you now with this, The World I Know by Collective Soul: