Time to end our apathy

Staff ~ Advertiser
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Dear Editor:

It is a commonplace to say that most of the news of the world is "shocking". Every newscast brings more details of destruction, suffering and death in some part of the globe either from earthquakes, typhoons, floods, terrorist attacks, some kind of war or just plain hunger and starvation. The reactions amongst the few who have spoken out have been informed by expressions of sorrow combined with the resignation that the ordinary man (woman) in the street can do little to bring relief. In fact, the general reactions to all such happenings have been one of unconcern to the point of annoyance. That general malaise, diagnosed as "apathy", may therefore be our greatest disease.

In recent school board elections in Newfoundland not only was the turnout termed "dismal", but two-thirds of the 60 positions at stake had to be filled by either acclamation or appointment. In recent mayoralty elections in Montreal only 30 per cent showed up to cast ballots. On Nov. 9 when four federal byelections were held, 70 per cent of the voters stayed home. When the leaders of all the Christian denominations in St. John's joined with the Hindus and Muslims and called a public meeting at St. James United Church on Nov. 17 to end poverty and inequality only about a hundred people showed up. There are many more examples from Newfoundland and across the country but they all pale in comparison to the response to the recent shocking news out of Southern Somalia.

Dear Editor:

It is a commonplace to say that most of the news of the world is "shocking". Every newscast brings more details of destruction, suffering and death in some part of the globe either from earthquakes, typhoons, floods, terrorist attacks, some kind of war or just plain hunger and starvation. The reactions amongst the few who have spoken out have been informed by expressions of sorrow combined with the resignation that the ordinary man (woman) in the street can do little to bring relief. In fact, the general reactions to all such happenings have been one of unconcern to the point of annoyance. That general malaise, diagnosed as "apathy", may therefore be our greatest disease.

In recent school board elections in Newfoundland not only was the turnout termed "dismal", but two-thirds of the 60 positions at stake had to be filled by either acclamation or appointment. In recent mayoralty elections in Montreal only 30 per cent showed up to cast ballots. On Nov. 9 when four federal byelections were held, 70 per cent of the voters stayed home. When the leaders of all the Christian denominations in St. John's joined with the Hindus and Muslims and called a public meeting at St. James United Church on Nov. 17 to end poverty and inequality only about a hundred people showed up. There are many more examples from Newfoundland and across the country but they all pale in comparison to the response to the recent shocking news out of Southern Somalia.

There, in the port of Merka, radical Islamists have stoned to death a 33-year-old man for adultery. But they have spared his 13-year-old girlfriend until she has her baby. Then, she will be stoned to death, too. The silence in the Canadian media and around the world has been remarkable. It has proven extremely difficult to find a Canadian newspaper that has carried the report, let alone feature it in a prominent first page position. Canadian television has been equally as silent. Even worse, there has been no comment from the Canadian government. The Canadian public, too, have been equally as quiet.

Surely, for those of us who have any spark of human feeling left, this is too much to take with simply a contented expression of shock. Stoning to death is not only a cruel and unusual punishment for the worst type of criminal but to do it to an innocent 13-year-old girl defies credibility. We cannot afford to sit back and muse on the horror of it all. It is time to speak out and demand action. The least we can do is to make it a subject of public debate. Write letters to newspapers, call open line radio shows, e-mail our political representatives, telephone our MPs, make demands of our federal government are juts a few of the actions we could take. Those could kick-start a campaign to force governments in the western world to intervene in some way, shape, or form. The men (women) in the street may feel helpless in the face of all such horrors but only if they turn their backs and refuse to join with others in a full frontal assault on the evils. Remember what Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) said:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

John Carrick Greene

St. John's

Organizations: Dear Editor, James United Church

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Montreal Southern Somalia Merka

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Recent comments

  • Raymond
    June 28, 2010 - 14:49

    Thank you, Mr. Greene, for your passion in wanting to awaken people to these type of atrocities happening in our world today. Of course, such cruel and unusual punishments have been occurring all throughout history, and, somehow, we have become desensitized to how current and cruel they still are.

    I believe that some of the problem with the public's (our) apathy to such shocking news is our media and their strong bent to be politically correct. They are quite prompt in reporting any perceived discrimination in our western countries toward people of a potentially violent religion, but turn a blind eye to it when these religions carry out their practices -- even within our own borders.

    Mcleans magazine reported several instances of possible honour killings that were carried out in Canada over the last year or so. They have been bold enough to do that in spite of the fear of being sued and having to defend themselves (freedom of speech and press) which can be quite costly.

    Our media may be succumbing to the fear of costly lawsuits. Rather than go for telling things the way they are, they cover Tiger Woods -type stories with a vengence. And, then when they do get the courage to cover a story involving people of these religions, it's always from the angle of them being the victims (no fear of getting sued here). That's why they do what they do.

    Unless Canadians/Americans wake up and seek to know the truth , then you know the saying...we will cease to be free.

  • Paul
    June 28, 2010 - 14:49

    I think that part of the problem is desensitisation...there is so much cruelty in the world and violence in the news and on TV that many people just don't pay attention any more (= apathy as you say). another thing is that many people feel its too far away to affect them (also = apathy)..but I would think that as horrible as this is, its isolated and not widespread ...I could be wrong, which is another reason people don't get up in arms over it.

    but more to the point maybe that our media and government don't make a fuss over it, and that would be because there is nothing in it for them/us. Much of Africa is in flames but no one seems to care...because there is nothing in it for us (we the western world).

    we can step in in Apghanistan because there is geopolitical strategic value, and a pipeline, in it for the USA...which trickles down to the rest of us. but Somalia? Intervention there is of no value to the west...

    Canada has lost its moral authority in the world, we no longer do (did we ever ???) the right thing because its the right thing to do, only do it because there is value in it.

  • Dave
    June 28, 2010 - 14:49

    Response to Mr Greene letter to the editor on (apathy)

    I find that Canada on the whole looks at the world with wide eyes. Yes, their are people in every society who wish to remain oblivious to whats really going on around them, but for the most part Canadians are engaged.

    Being a Newfoundlander who left home at a young age to serve in the military I have found for the most part that Canadians are far more informed than most other populations when it comes to the conflict and pain in our world. Yes, I said our world. People have to look at the world as a home. If the kitchen of your home is on fire it cant be ignored, because eventually that fire will spread to the rest of your home. Each day we find Canadians around the world assisting in areas of conflict and human strife.

    I hope this holiday season that people of all faiths say a prayer for all of the people out their through their jobs or volunteer work who make this world a better place to live in. Just take a moment out of their day to thank the police officer, volunteer firemen, paramedic, and countless others whose efforts make our lives better.

  • Raymond
    June 22, 2010 - 16:05

    Thank you, Mr. Greene, for your passion in wanting to awaken people to these type of atrocities happening in our world today. Of course, such cruel and unusual punishments have been occurring all throughout history, and, somehow, we have become desensitized to how current and cruel they still are.

    I believe that some of the problem with the public's (our) apathy to such shocking news is our media and their strong bent to be politically correct. They are quite prompt in reporting any perceived discrimination in our western countries toward people of a potentially violent religion, but turn a blind eye to it when these religions carry out their practices -- even within our own borders.

    Mcleans magazine reported several instances of possible honour killings that were carried out in Canada over the last year or so. They have been bold enough to do that in spite of the fear of being sued and having to defend themselves (freedom of speech and press) which can be quite costly.

    Our media may be succumbing to the fear of costly lawsuits. Rather than go for telling things the way they are, they cover Tiger Woods -type stories with a vengence. And, then when they do get the courage to cover a story involving people of these religions, it's always from the angle of them being the victims (no fear of getting sued here). That's why they do what they do.

    Unless Canadians/Americans wake up and seek to know the truth , then you know the saying...we will cease to be free.

  • Paul
    June 22, 2010 - 16:05

    I think that part of the problem is desensitisation...there is so much cruelty in the world and violence in the news and on TV that many people just don't pay attention any more (= apathy as you say). another thing is that many people feel its too far away to affect them (also = apathy)..but I would think that as horrible as this is, its isolated and not widespread ...I could be wrong, which is another reason people don't get up in arms over it.

    but more to the point maybe that our media and government don't make a fuss over it, and that would be because there is nothing in it for them/us. Much of Africa is in flames but no one seems to care...because there is nothing in it for us (we the western world).

    we can step in in Apghanistan because there is geopolitical strategic value, and a pipeline, in it for the USA...which trickles down to the rest of us. but Somalia? Intervention there is of no value to the west...

    Canada has lost its moral authority in the world, we no longer do (did we ever ???) the right thing because its the right thing to do, only do it because there is value in it.

  • Dave
    June 22, 2010 - 16:04

    Response to Mr Greene letter to the editor on (apathy)

    I find that Canada on the whole looks at the world with wide eyes. Yes, their are people in every society who wish to remain oblivious to whats really going on around them, but for the most part Canadians are engaged.

    Being a Newfoundlander who left home at a young age to serve in the military I have found for the most part that Canadians are far more informed than most other populations when it comes to the conflict and pain in our world. Yes, I said our world. People have to look at the world as a home. If the kitchen of your home is on fire it cant be ignored, because eventually that fire will spread to the rest of your home. Each day we find Canadians around the world assisting in areas of conflict and human strife.

    I hope this holiday season that people of all faiths say a prayer for all of the people out their through their jobs or volunteer work who make this world a better place to live in. Just take a moment out of their day to thank the police officer, volunteer firemen, paramedic, and countless others whose efforts make our lives better.