My drive to work usually involves me consuming the content of a few podcasts. Helps me feel informed and a little more knowledgeable for it. The NY Times Daily is one that I occasionally lend an ear to. It feels credible. And for some reason this morning’s installment tugged at me, brought me to thinking. A Mother, a Daughter and a Deadly Journey. That was the title, and it essentially chronicled the harrowing journey of many, but also of this mother and her six year old daughter, through The Darién Gap. Considered by many to be one of the “one of the rainiest and most dangerous places on the planet, a lawless, un-policed region, with many drug smugglers and sometimes political rebels.” The Darién Gap is a geographic region in the Isthmus of Darién or Isthmus of Panama connecting the American continents within Central America, consisting of a large watershed, forest, and mountains in Panama’s Darién Province and the northern portion of Colombia’s Chocó Department. Wikipedia
A quick Google search of the name and you quickly learn that it is also a route that over 250,000 migrants in 2022, have taken in the hopes of getting to a better life in America. The story was, as you imagined, a heart wrenching one, an alarming one, a thought provoking one. As I listened to the details of this absolutely horrifying journey, my mind could only imagine my seven year old daughter having to endure something like this. I imagine the thousands of people making the decision to risk their lives on this ten plus days journey to uncertainty and wondered how horrible life must be for one to see this as the only option for themselves and their family. To make what seems to be the biggest gamble of their lives, not knowing if they will make it to the US, and even further not knowing how you will be received, if in fact you are received and allowed in and not sent back. It’s mind-boggling the enormity of what so many people are enduring daily for a chance to simply live and thrive in this world. If you sit for a moment, put down the phones and think of all the humanitarian crises, simultaneously occurring throughout the world, that you may know of, glossed over on your phones, or heard of in the background on the TV, and attempt to empathize with the hundreds of thousands of people suffering, it could probably depress you. I am sure you would feel pain, sympathy, maybe even some guilt, an overwhelming feeling of malaise about how little we can actually do, and then lastly we might also feel lucky, fortunate, blessed and even thankful. The latter of which we are probably more so than we even know.
Living in the US and having come from a country that in spite of the normal social issues, is quite possibly an island paradise, the types of hardships many are fleeing from is not something I can closely relate too. Granted my early years here was no walk in the park. I remember the many years questioning the reason for me being here. But I had not fled stark poverty, or the potential loss of family, or extreme violence and imagining what that may be like is something I and many like me, you and many of us here, have been insulated from, distracted from. And really through no fault of our own. It is with remarkable fortune that we are able to live in places where for many of us excess rather than lack is what we battle daily.
It is not my intention to make you feel badly about this luck of the draw, though this luck presents a remarkably stark difference to the lives of many of our neighbors on this planet. I am here commenting on the obvious, the fact that as so many humans exist in the most egregious conditions, yet so many of us are over flowing with distractions and stuff. We have a lot of stuff. Having the luxury to acknowledge or not acknowledge what the world is really like, is both a blessing and a curse. And one might argue, if I am unable to do anything about these situations then why should I even bother to pay attention. I can easily choose from any myriad of mind-numbing exercises and just move on. It is not happening to me or my family. The world is large and these situations have no impact on me. If I allow myself to be unconcerned then my moral obligation is naught. Yet we travel. We are global citizens and with that comes some basic principles of global solidarity and shared responsibility. And as history has shown time and again, humans are nomadic, either by choice, force or circumstance. And though for many it is preferable to believe these situations do not exist, or that they exist over there, it is inevitable that we will be affected by them. That we are affected by them.
World peace as we know is a farce and in fact the concept of peace, unending, is a fool’s dream. If nothing else history has taught us that with man comes wars, blood, genocide, displacement, oppression, supremacy and pure disregard for human life. We are high thinking barbarians. Some more sophisticated than others, but generally, it’s about survival of the fittest. And therein lies part of how we rationalize our positions on these issues. But regardless of how we think of this, these are all humanitarian crises that can contribute to the escalation of conflicts or arise because of conflicts, which may lead to regional instability. This instability can have broader geopolitical consequences and impact global security. It is actually a perfectly logical outcome in today’s interconnected world. Neglecting humanitarian crises can lead to larger refugee flows, affecting neighboring countries and potentially causing regional destabilization. This, in turn, can result in a greater number of refugees seeking asylum in developed countries, too many such stories in the media to count.
We are living in quite possibly the noisiest time in human history, information is available to us like never before, in doses that render many of us like zombies incessantly scrolling and consuming. The viewpoints and opinions are many and varied but somehow we are molded mostly by the sources we persistently get our information from. We unconsciously develop a position fueled by a lot of the same. And anything that challenges that view has to be completely wrong. The way some media outlets cover and frame news stories definitely influence public perception. Some global humanitarian crises receive less coverage than others or are presented in a way that minimizes their importance, understandably individuals may be less aware or concerned. There is so much misinformation or disinformation about global events that distort perceptions and contribute to this pervasive lack of understanding or concern.
The current migrant situation, that is now bringing large numbers of people to many cities in the US, has many afraid and concerned. The feeling that this problem is not our problem can be heard loudly in communities citing their inability to house or shelter the truly large numbers of humans seeking help. Not in my backyard, is the usual sentiment. This nirvana of ours is not to be disrupted, as we have fought long and hard to build all this, the problems of the world should not trickle in. And our lives should not be upended in anyway because of it. So what are we to do? Who is responsible for the hundreds and thousands of displaced people? Where do they go? Especially when staying is the option that surely ends in death.
Perhaps we have been so numbed, so insulated that it’s easier to say it is what it is and simply move on. Perhaps our failure to engage in humanitarian issues may have contributed to our loss of empathy and a proper understanding of these diverse global issues, thus leading to a diminished sense of shared humanity.
But this is a challenge that requires a collective effort from the international community, including individuals, governments, NGOs, and businesses. Increasing awareness, fostering empathy, and supporting effective policies and interventions are crucial steps in addressing and preventing humanitarian crises around the world.
Maybe this is just how the chickens come home to roost for developed countries. A consequence of imperialism, perhaps?
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
November 2, 1883