Sunday, July 16, 2006

Very unapologetic and possibly nonsensical rant

So I just finished watching The Constant Gardener for the second time with a couple of friends who've never seen it...and not five minutes after the film ends, one turns to the other and says, "So, are we still going clubbing tomorrow night?"

How anyone can watch that film and not sit silently devastated by humankind afterwards, or at least sit there and question everything about how you choose to live your own life, is beyond me. Like the first time, I still don't really want to talk to anyone. I just feel completely overwhelmed, and at the same time I don't like admitting it because I've been criticized in the past for being too sensitive or too bleeding heart...but what am I supposed to do? Shrug it off and go about my life thinking that it sucks, but what can I do? Shut my mouth because no one wants to hear it? Fine. Don't read this post.

You just feel so futile afterwards. The filmmakers did an amazing job with the whole movie. It doesn't preach, and yet it just fills you with this sense of anguish, this all-too-concrete realization that the way our lives play out depends in part on the fortunes of where we are born. The understanding that most of these kids, if they make it through adolescence, are going to die decades before us because because they don't have elemental things like food and education and fucking basic health care. Meanwhile here I am, bitching about how I need more this, more that, how I'll never have enough cash to buy my own house...

I think what really destroys me about the film is that, for whatever reason, it's the one thing that really makes me feel like I can't ever do anything big enough or effective enough to alleviate one miniscule piece of the suffering in this world. And I want to, but like so many people I'm too paralyzed to even begin. What the hell could I possibly do anyway? Rent for the rest of my life and save the rest to start yet another foundation pushing yet another solution with yet another plan that never works? Move somewhere else and be the good little developed-world white martyr who thinks that just because she "gets" the problem, she's somehow got the right to put herself in the middle of it and fight the system in ways that aren't necessarily helpful, let alone right? Sit around and moan about how awful the world is without doing a damn thing about it because I can't think of anything that feels ethically okay?

I just keep thinking about fate, fortune, timing. Why I'm here, why someone else is stuck in a brutal world they didn't ask for. Why everything I want to say comes out sounding cliched when what I'm feeling is anything but. It tests my faith, this knowledge that so many people in the world are screwed from the day they're born. What kind of god would do that? What kind of world would allow it? What the hell is wrong with us?

Being a martyr's no good. If you don't get killed, you burn out, wind up sacrificing everything for nothing, a grain of sand tossed by the storm. But the whole reason we seem to need martyrs is because we can't develop the collective will to do something about it, to each move one brick and rebuild the foundation. Instead, we sit around looking at the bricks, muttering about the bloody bricks, grumbling about how someone should do something about the bloody bricks but how there's no sense in throwing your back out because what good would it do if all you did was put one more brick down for a stupid project that will never be completed?

I just don't know what to do. About any of it. If I look back and feel like I never did a damn thing about it, I don't think I could accept my life. But what am I going to do, and why haven't I started yet? Look at me: I'm a bloody student. Whoopee. I supposedly have all this great potential to change the world because that's why I received this bleeding scholarship, but what am I supposed to do with that potential and how on EARTH can I even begin?

The worst part of it is that I don't think I'm going to find any answers to those questions. I just hope I don't waste all my time thinking about them instead of just slogging forward and hoping somehow, some way, I'm doing something that actually matters, something that actually remedies even one iota of everything that's wrong with the world.


Dan said...

A really well written description of how I sometimes feel. Thanks.

esposo said...

"If life makes you scared and bitter, at least it's not for very long."

--Bad Religion, "Slumber"

On a less depressing note, a modest proposal (no, not the Swiftian kind):

Find a vocation you find emotionally and ethically fulfilling. Live within your means. Consciously reject frivolities and keep track of the money salvaged thereby. At regular intervals, funnel this windfall to an organization, such as the Gates Foundation, that, by the same vagaries of fate that prevented you from being born malnourished and desolate, is well-placed to alleviate some of the miseries that plague much of the human life on this planet.

A grain of sand? Yes, but not "just" a grain of sand. Part of the trick is to ensure that your contribution is not lonely. Lead by example, proudly and forcefully, using the means available to you. No amount of shock therapy will arouse the slumbering masses, but perhaps a dedicated and implacable grassroots effort will do some good.

Any step is better than no step, and giving it your best (even when that means grappling with the meaning of "best") is both necessary and sufficient.

Kid Sis said...

Wow. I feel you.

I was devastated it didn't get best oscar. Crash vs. Constant Gardener? No contest.

Of course, that's just the reality behind our biggest racism...allowing African genocide...

Meg said...

Dan, thanks. It's good to know I'm not flying solo out here. Thanks, too, for finding the site.

Esposo (hey there! You remembered!)...not much I can say except, yes, you are completely right...thanks. :) Also, could I add one other item to your list? See it. I feel like I have an obligation (I know that sounds weird) to actually witness what life is "like" outside my little comfort zone (while fully acknowledging the limited objectivity of any individual perspective). If nothing else, it gives me slightly greater authority when people ask me WTF I know about prison rights or Cuban politics...and it's always a good way to jolt me back into understanding what really matters.

KS, I know. What can you even say, really? There are millions -- freaking MILLIONS! -- of people dead in the Congo because of its ongoing civil war...but does that ever make the headlines? Naw. It's just more poor people killing each other, so why focus on that when we can fixate on where TomKat's baby went??

esposo said...

Where *did* TomKat's baby go? I have a modest proposal about that too...

Auglaise said...

Part of the problem is that there are just so many problems! But I suppose the only thing you can do is to decide that you're going to move that one brick. And then start convincing other people that they want to help. And if you take a brick, and I take a brick...who knows where we'd end up?