Empathy

The trouble with natural disasters or wars in far flung countries is that the sheer scale of the thing sometimes makes it difficult to relate to.  I remember reading about a journalist who had to be brought home from a country suffering  a violent military coup.  On the bus taking the journalists and officials to the airport, she saw newly homeless people trudging along in misery and even dead bodies by the side of the road.  But the thing that stuck in her mind was a little dog, obviously a pet, who had been left behind in the mayhem and, when he saw the bus approaching what was left of his village, ran up to it in excitement.  But, despite the pleas of some of the passengers, the bus driver wouldn’t stop and her abiding memory was looking out of the back window and seeing the dog running after the bus.

I remembered that story last night after watching footage of the mudslides in Brazil on British T.V.  People have been killed and injured, some are still missing and many are homeless.   They showed film of a woman clinging to what remained of her house amidst swirling muddy water.  She had her little dog under one arm.  Her neighbours threw her a rope to cling onto so that she could jump free of the wreckage of her house and be pulled to relative safety.  She jumped into the water, still holding  the dog,  but the current was too strong for her to hold on to the rope with one hand and, as she reached up with her other hand,  the dog was swept away. 

I thought at the time, ‘why that particular footage?’ , out of all the terrible things going on.  But, since then, it is that image that haunts me.  It’s strange but I guess we need the individual stories to empathise with in order  to appreciate  the sheer enormity and scale of a disaster.

Just thinking ‘out loud’ really.

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  1. #1 by Lindy in Brisbane on January 14, 2011 - 12:23

    Wow. We are all so involved in our own catastrophic events here in Australia, that I didn’t even know there had been a disaster in Brazil also. And we are so close by to our disaster- just a couple of suburbs away people have lost everything, submerged in floodwaters, and a capital city in shutdown. Not to mention the dead and the missing, many of whom the police admit will probably never be found. We now have flooding in over 75% of our very large state- an area bigger than France and Germany combined. There is a piece of footage that will haunt me forever, of a man who tried to rescue two boys from a car in raging waters, and he was about to take one boy, but the boy wanted him to take his little brother first. By the time he got the younger boy to safety, he turned to find the boy and car careering down in the torrent. I have teared up so many times in the last few days, and almost feel guilty that we have been spared. At least we are close enough to offer some help, regardless of how helpless we may feel.

    • #2 by tialys on January 14, 2011 - 13:39

      Hello Lindy. I can barely imagine such widescale flooding. An area bigger than France and Germany combined – incredible! You must feel very lucky to have escaped the devastation and, as you say, you are in a position to offer some immediate and practical help perhaps. Another image to haunt me too. Sometimes I feel it would be better to listen to the news on the radio but I suppose that would just be cowardly.

  2. #3 by trash on January 14, 2011 - 17:42

    I know the footage you mean Tialys, it horrified me too. I have been looking at my assistant all day imagining being in that situation. Lindy I know the story you mean, I really honestly hope never to see that footage.

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