THE BLOG
04/10/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

Numb to Being Numb

Recently, my alma mater's student newspaper wrote an article about how students and the student body should not be numb already to the recent Tsunami crisis, or something. I didn't read it. Why? Long ago I decided upon something, it allows me to get up in the morning, it's Darwinian, it's pragmatic, it's not hypocritical, most importantly it's human. I decided to be numb to being numb to the world. Does this policy make me a monster? Sounds like it, but it is also all those things listed above. I am numb to the world because I chose to be, and I am numb to being numb because I have to be.

Every day, even in America, the news, regardless of party affiliation and political slant, continuously broadcasts what at first always seems like a horror movie. I always want to yell "Wait! Don't go in there! It's too dangerous!" until I realize shamefully that is his home, that is her school and that is their car. And so, I watch as the protagonist's home is robbed, school is riddled with bullets and car is crushed by a drunk driver. When the news expands to the world, the protagonists multiply and events (landslides, famines and tsunamis), numbers (100, 5,000, 100,000) and images quickly flash by the television screen, as the viewer processes or tries to process the severity of what just happened. But it's impossible. For one who is not numb to the world, the daily information flowing from the television, newspaper and internet that 100 fathers, mothers and children in Cameroon died of famine today, or 1,000 died today in India due to massive flooding, coupled with landslides would surely be too much to handle. So defensively we think of these tragedies that carousel around our lives simply as events, as the deaths simply as numbers, essentially meaningless.

There are over a billion people in the world in extreme poverty, but a billion means nothing to me, it simply can't mean anything to me. I've never seen a million people anywhere, let alone a billion. The entire population of the United States, top five largest country in the world, would have to be multiplied over three times to create a number close to a billion. My brain simply cannot process a number that large, let alone think of all those vulnerable people as real people with families, friends, and meaning in their lives.

Ultimately, what would be the moral consequences of a person gifted enough to conceive of the number billion, that was able to grasp the plight of the world, and ultimately become "unumb?" Are these "unumb" people those same people that give a dollar a day to Africa, and like a "Katch Kony" status on Facebook? No, these people, it must be said, are very much still numb, or naïve, in their own way. (Liking something on Facebook in itself, will never prove to be a catalyst for change, sorry.) Those who are truly "unumb" to the world are few and far between. Being "unumb" would mean, let's say from a utilitarian point of view, selling all of your things (house, car, iPad, iPhone) donating the money, and then moving to the poorest part of the world and trying to help those that are there. This is rare (think Mother Teresa).

Most disheartening is the fact that even by fulfilling this "moral obligation" there will certainly be over a billion more people in dangerously vulnerable poverty. An "unumb" person would simply not be able to watch the grim news continue at a nauseating pace, watching this seemingly Grim Reaper driven carousel. And thus being numb to the world is a defense mechanism, it ensures survival.

For things to go on, to keep caring about your own loved ones, to keep living your own life, one must be numb. If those numbers and events became real you would go crazy because humans are not monsters. To see that much tragedy on a daily basis we have to become numb, it's an adaptation for our survival, it's an adaption for my survival. And so I remain numb to the fact that I am numb to the world because if I didn't make this choice, I am not sure I could keep living. Ultimately, though I don't know the point of anything I have just written on this very privileged morning in my very privileged life, but I can't think about this anymore...I have to go check my Facebook.

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