I am a privileged person. I am well aware. When I think of the word “deprive,” I think of cell phone service and the number of air conditioning units in my apartment, not food, water, or shelter. So today, I’m not going to talk about myself (shocker, I know).
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it would be like to be deprived of one of the five senses. I’ve (strangely) heard this question a ton: if you had to choose one sense, which one would you be ok with losing? But that’s not how it would work. I could answer whichever one I wanted, but if I were to actually lose a sense, there’s a 4/5 chance it would be one of the ones I hadn’t picked. Then there are those who really don’t have one of the senses, or maybe even two, and I’m guessing they didn’t have a choice in the matter either.
There’s a book by José Saramago called Blindness that I read for a class last year. It’s about a mysterious disease, contagious by touch, that causes blindness in nearly all of the world’s population. At first, it’s terrifying because those who aren’t already blind don’t know whether or not they’ll catch the disease, so they try to run away from it. As it turns out, however, this was the least terrifying part of the story; as the whole world turns blind, society crumbles into chaos. Most people are rendered helpless by their blindness, even if they’re in groups that try to help each other, and there are those who take advantage of everyone else’s blindness to reveal their more brutal and violent nature without any worry of there being witnesses. One woman in the story proves to be invaluable to the group she’s with because she can still see, but she keeps it a secret because she’s afraid that if the wrong people know of her advantage over them, it will put her and her impromptu family at risk.
I know this is oversimplifying things to the extreme, but doesn’t this sound just a little bit like the refugee situation happening in our world today? Of course, losing your home isn’t a disease, and it’s certainly not happening throughout the entire world, but it’s still a (very large) group of humans being deprived of a basic need. Their neighbors can’t help them, much as they may want to, because they’re facing the same situation, and the more people who are forced out of their homes, the more chaotic their world becomes.
Just like those deprived of sight in Blindness, those deprived of their homes in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq (as well as many other countries) cannot simply help themselves or be helped by those immediately surrounding them, hence: refugee crisis. Although I’m not going to claim to know enough about the situation to really have valuable input (which is why I’m writing in my own tiny personal blog), what I do know is that migrants want out bad enough to risk their lives and even their children’s lives to get to safer places. And call me a cynic, but I just have a feeling that the American people have sort of forgotten how bad these peoples’ situation is. We’ve been desensitized to the number of videos of huddled masses and dirty children, and we’re no longer affected by those animated charts on Fox and CNN showing just how many millions of people need homes. Instead, the buzz is about how to connect the migrant crisis to the U.S. presidential election, or how to connect it with the Orlando shooting, which is baffling to me, seeing as how neither of these things is related to the migrant crisis (seriously, they’re not).
These 50+ million people have been deprived of something that we have an excess of. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that it would create absolute chaos and achieve nothing if countries were to just let refugees in by the millions with no regulation. What angers me is when I hear talk of shutting borders completely, or just the mistrust and hatred toward the refugees themselves. It would be like if the woman who could see in Blindness decided she wouldn’t use her sight to help others and only helped herself, letting those she could see every day around her suffer and die.
There’s a video made in leu of the refugee crisis, directed (I’m just guessing) toward those who live in countries that can help migrants in need: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBQ-IoHfimQ. The tagline at the end is “Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”
I can’t tell you to go take in a refugee family right now or donate all of your money to help the cause, because these aren’t things that I’ve done, and it would be hypocritical of me to tell you to do anything at all (I’m a college kid so really I haven’t done much of anything). What I can suggest, though, is something that I tell myself all the time (whether or not I follow my own advice is up for debate): be grateful for the privileges you have, and don’t lose perspective.