“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm but the harm does not interest them.” T.S. Eliot
I didn’t ask to be here. In this world full of suffering and pain and a million gut-wrenching moments. I didn’t ask to be here, but I’m here just the same.
In the middle of it.
This weekend I watched the film, También la Lluvia (Even the Rain in English). It’s a fascinating movie about the making of a movie about the conquest of Latin America (meta, right?). The basic premise is this: “A Spanish film crew helmed by an idealistic director and his cynical producer come to Bolivia to make a revisionist epic about the conquest of Latin America – on the cheap.”
I learned about the film from Tim Hoiland’s excellent and thoughtful review. Starring Gael García Bernal of Motorcycle Diaries fame, and exploring the effects of Spanish imperialism from the time when Columbus sailed the ocean blue until now, I just had to watch it.
Here’s the trailer:
I was not disappointed, but I was disturbed.
I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in Latin America and the entirety of my professional life advocating on behalf of the rural poor, so I wasn’t surprised by the injustice the film portrayed. But I was disturbed by how pervasive and overwhelming and awful it can be.
From the forced slavery and abuses the conquistadores imposed on the indigenous population in the 15th century to the unjust trade laws backed by multinational corporations today, there’s enough injustice to go around—and to get depressed.
Towards the end of the film, riots break out among the indigenous population as they protest the privatization of water that will mean a 300% price increase for families to access one of life’s most precious resources.
In a poignant scene, one crewmember asks another, “What are we going to do about this?”
“Nothing,” says his comrade. “It’s not my problem.”
“But you’re in the middle of it,” the first retorts, eyes wide, head shaking in disbelief.
Even as crowds gather, streets are blocked off, and violence builds the man chooses to say, “It’s not my problem.”
Most days, I am that man. I close my eyes. I shut off the news. I turn up my ipod. I do whatever it takes to convince myself that the world is not rioting and bleeding and exploding all around me.
Most days I forget the truth: I am in the middle of it, whether I like it or not.
Movies like jolt me awake.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm but the harm does not interest them.”
Am I so busy trying to feel important that the harm and suffering of others does not interest me?
I was going to write that I am praying for the courage to ask, really ask and seek an answer, to that question. But a prayer feels like a cop out.
The world is turned upside down and all I can do is muster a prayer to notice? To be interested? To be bothered with the commotion around me?
Maybe it is a cop out, but it’s a pretty darn good first step and perhaps the only answer to all the pain and suffering and injustice that overwhelms and disturbs and depresses me: LOVE. Praying that He will transform my heart and open my eyes and shape me more and more into someone who looks more like Jesus and less like someone who only takes an interest in herself.
So I’m sorry for my flimsy response. I’m sorry I have no answers or bite-sized takeaways for you to combat injustice. I can only say that I’m praying. I’m trying to notice and I’m trying to act.
And I hope you try to notice too. We are in the middle of it, after all.