On the right to be flippant…

There are a lot of things I do not understand.

But worse than Mondays, the return of celebrity big brother and a Hollyoaks omnibus (which I believe are thankfully over now) put together, are people who do not watch the news. You know those people who are say it’s “too sad” or “depressing” or worse the ones that just don’t seem to care about anything, unless it’s in their living room. Those who only know about the tragic events in Paris because they wondered why people started putting “Je suis Charlie” as their profile pictures. It may have been more acceptable a hundred or even fifty years ago, to not know what is going on around the world but now there are no excuses.

Now I don’t want to come over all high and mighty, but being a citizen of the world is a new year’s resolution that is worth getting behind.

In a General Election May, many years ago, a boy who hopefully now knows better said to me,”What’s the point in voting, it’s not going to change anything”. Ah I have deleted friends on facebook for less and at the time, exasperated and teenager I argued at how it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. And to be quite honest, it still is. When there are countries in the world where people still have to fight to get their voice heard, where political systems are corrupt and voting is often disrupted by violence and fear, it is shocking that someone in England thinks it is pointless. Apart from the fact that every vote counts, I also think there is something fundamentally wrong, in denying your opportunity to have a say and make a stand for your opinion.

The same boy had a similar attitude to the environment, and refused to take cans the extra few metres to the recycling bin. Now I printed all my Greenpeace e-mails off, the Amazon would be gone by now, but radical and social-media-aggressive as they may be, the environment is hugely important and something that people overlook again and again. Like those who don’t watch the news, it seems people who refuse to reduce their waste or consumption of energy, are just saying up yours to the rest of us, who do care about our planet.

Humankind

I always liked Oxfam’s “Be humankind” slogan and never has it been more relevant. Amongst the recent harrowing news stories, you see examples of heroism, kindness and altruism of people like hiding others in the cold storage room in supermarket during the siege.

My housemate is watching the Book thief (an excellent book, and not a bad film despite criticisms of it being over-sentimental- so what if the girl is pretty!). Lisel’s adopted father, Hans, sees the mistreatment of a man in his village by Nazi soldiers. The poignancy of the scene emphasised by all his fellow villagers, looking on, some in horror, many in indifference but each of them, silent. Hans tries to protect the man, claiming he is a good man and listing off his qualities as people continue to stand still, frozen in fear or unwilling to support the actions of Lisel’s father.

For this show of humanity, for standing up for a Jewish man, Hans’ name is recorded and later he is sent to a work camp (a deviation from the book). He is shown crying at the kitchen table as he laments his behaviour, by behaving as he did, he has put his family at risk.

Whilst studying philosophy I remember learning the difference between absolutism and relativism in ethics. Surely it is an absolute truth that beating an old man in unethical and standing up for what is right is, well, right. This may have been pre-the Universal Declaration of Humans rights, but surely we have an inherent sense that this sort of brutality is not acceptable. As a child, I remember naively wondering were the people of Germany and supporting countries, selfish cowards or brainwashed fools? Was it fear that stopped so many intervening? Naive as my questions were, it is a difficult parallel in modern times because now it seems we are inundated by opinions and terrorism cannot silence them all. In the age of social media you simply cannot be silent and put your head in the ground about these matters so easily, when so much information is available.

One of my favourite quotes is

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Nazi Germany is an extreme example where it is easy to argue that you would have stood up for the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and many others the Nazi party persecuted. But in a culture of fear, perhaps the selfish gene kicks in and self preservation fuelled many decisions. It’s not as if taking on the SS would be advisable or easy.

However if history has taught us anything, and as someone who teaches it on a daily basis I hope it has, it is so important that we inform ourselves about the world (not just so we can win the pub quiz) and stand up for the rights of people, globally.

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I didn’t want to write a post, to join the masses, on censorship, terrorism or religion. But I couldn’t write a blog, that is public, and where I have the freedom to write, without acknowledging the tragedies and losses this week in Paris. I would happily describe my blog as trivial and flippant, I enjoy writing about lifestyle, dating and the minute details of a 20-something woman. But I do appreciate the right I have to do that, and that I am free to express myself, be it about politics or lip gloss. Censorship should be resisted and violence should never be justified.

With thoughts of all the recent terrible tragedies and attacks across the world, the school in Pakistan, Australia, Paris…

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and the hope that we all remember our humanity and look after each-other, no exceptions.

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