For us wealthy westerners, looking at poorer people in third world countries or homeless fellows on the street, it is so easy to make quick assumptions.
"They could get a job if they just put enough effort."
"If I give them money they will just spend it on drugs."
"They are creating their own situation."
At this stage of my life I came to a point where I don't have enough arrogance left in me to be sure but of one thing, which is that I will never be able to fully understand the pain, life and circumstances of another. Yes: I have not grown starving for food, so I can never fully understand someone who did. I have not grown without education so I can never fully understand someone who did. I have not grown alone on the street, and I can never understand fully someone who did. I don't consider myself so superior to believe that my life experience, my perspective, my background, my privilege applies to everyone else I see. In fact it is my unique privilege to be able to even consider doing that.
Yet, as easy as it is to deem circumstances of poorer people as inferior, less fortunate, less happy, I have also come to the opposite conclusion. When travelling to poor country you can often easily see, on clear display for everyone, the lack of wealth, the lack of security, the lack of health. It is almost a public exhibit of human flaws. Because they are so visible, so public, it is very easy to come to the - very erroneous - conclusion that those people are indeed less fortunate.
What I have learned to see is what is behind the display, behind the curtains. The one thing I can say for certain about the West is that we have become masters of disguise. Unlike third world countries, where shadows are open for everyone to see, we display layers of perfection to hide what is truly underneath. We exhibit cleanliness and order in our streets: we show serene healthy people in public, we are very good at exhibiting nice orderly clothes, neat attitudes and pretty material possessions. We display the young, healthy, successful, famous everywhere on the media, on billboards, on TVs. What we are excellent at is hiding.
Behind layers of perfection, impeccable cleanliness and organization, we hide shame, fear, loneliness, desperation, lack, sickness, abuse. We hide shadows so dark and deep that are terrifying even to mention. Hollywood and the political circles hide rings of pedophilia and ritual child abuse. Successful multibillion companies hide suicidal employees and environmental disasters. Perfect families are secretive locations for child abuse, domestic violence and misogyny. Misogyny, homophobia, racism run in companies, social circles, families. Societies are lead, run and guided by psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists and the most mentally sick.
And the biggest disease of all: isolation. We have never been so many, we have never had such advanced technological tools to help our communication, connection, closeness, and yet we have never been so alone and disconnected.
Teens commit suicide in isolation, older people live alone in misery. Young people raise their children all by themselves.
We might be full of material wealth, but just like the third world we are starving. Only we are starving for something far deeper than food: human connection.
Buried underneath layers of disguise, where we try so hard to show our success, our perfect lives, our pretty relationships, clothes, homes and possessions, we have suffocated the most important thing of all: our authenticity. We have forgotten how to be really human, how to feel and express our emotions at every level, pain to joy.
We have given up our humanity for a facade. And we have become thus slaves of our own suppressed needs. Because we are in a state of starvation, we are easy to manipulate. We buy all the useless goods that are sold to us. We eat comfort foods, we consume drugs, television, fashion, entertainment, distraction. We fill the void inside us with everything that is offered to us, and in exchange we are willing to give up our soul. We work jobs we hate, for people whose ethics are questionable, so that we can buy those things. We stay in relationships where we suffer, so that we fill that emptiness. We participate daily to the destruction of our planet and to the torture and slaughter of other animals willingly and obediently. We buy the illusion that by cheering for one or another political leader we make a change, meanwhile giving up our power and responsibility to them.
For years I have tried to change this world. But I am no longer optimistic that it can really be changed. From what I've seen it is true that some changes can be made, and don't get me wrong: I will keep trying. However I recognize that a lot of it will have to start from scratch. A lot will have to be destroyed. The corruption is too deep, the codependence too strong, to really shift things significantly before it is too late. A new world based on our forgotten human values needs to emerge.