Sunday, February 29, 2004
It's not enough

The homeless in New York.

I think what particularly alarmed me when I took this picture was my own reaction. I realized that although I stood behind a glass door taking pictures of them for a good five minutes so that I could post them here and carry their message to others, it didn't even occur to me to give them money. Not until later when I was showing a friend these pictures and he happened to ask "so did you give them money" did it occur to me that even I am completely desensitized. It reminded me of ihath's post where she describes her own surprise at finding out she is racist. Am I classist? Often when a homeless person passes me I will just keep looking ahead, or once in a while I will look at them while feeling sad, or even worse, grateful for my own life. It is only when I travel or when I am in unfamiliar surroundigs that it occurs to me to try to do something for the homeless around me. Have I grown too accustomed to my own surroundings to just take them as a normal part of daily life??

Ihath also describes Nelson Mandela's reaction when he discovers that he also exhibits racist behaviour . He has a panic attack at discovering that the pilot to a commercial flight he is to take is black, and nervously boards the plane. He knows that a black person is just as capable of commanding a plane as is a caucasian person, but he too has been so accustomed to seeing caucasian pilots that he has inwardly grown to believe that white pilots are more competent!!

I would seriously recommend anyone who reads this post to read the letter at the end of this page. It is seriously one of the best posts, and one of the most touching commentaries I have read. Throughout reading it I felt shivers of recognition.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, who is skeptical enough to challenge the norms and standards given to me. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn't just take the world for granted as being necessarily organized in its current form, and someone who understands what it means to respect others. To respect others, especially those who have less freedom, enough that instead of pity I would feel a genuine desire to redistribute some of what I have so that they can be enabled to be more responsible for their happiness.

Then why is it that I, too, don't act? I thought blogging was a way to start. I thought that by writing and sharing these thoughts, as I do in my daily life with those around me, or in seminars at my university, I was making a start. And it is, indeed, a start. But it's not enough.

It's not enough to say "at least I do something intellectually, even if..."
It's not enough to say "well at least I care, even if..."
It's not enough to say "at least I have the right intentions, even if..."

Those are all good starts. They are necessary. But they are not sufficient. Genuineness is needed.


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