Saving the world (right after cartoons)

Someone called my cell phone on Friday. That alone was strange enough. It wasn’t from anyone I knew or the group of people who keep calling my phone asking if I am selling my townhouse-unless that’s what they’re calling Pearson these days. It was an automated message telling me to go to a website to look at an ad for some music deal.

Now I’m not going to continue on with my cell phone story because there isn’t much more to it. Sometimes I just find myself in this need to be indignant about something. I want to just take a stand and I want to rant my heart out about something that deeply offends me of some great importance and then that somehow change the world. But for this week, I’m just numb. So to hide it, I latch onto complaining about something stupid. Like a cell phone call that really didn’t inconvenience me all that much.

It’s called “compassion fatigue,” or becoming exhausted from caring too much. A name given to the burnout experienced by people in care-giving professions, it is now extended to cycles of public indifference in the face of world tragedy. Most recently I’ve found it in an article by Brent Gregston on WorldPress.org in reference to the tsunami. There’s also an earlier book, Compassion Fatigue by Susan Moeller that I remember reading selections of in high school. I’m not suggesting reading the book or the article, I just mention them because I didn’t make the term up and it’s a good way to describe what I’m feeling. It’s a sense of “meh” or, “I’ll save the world after cartoons.”

I could blame it on society or the media or a big green dinosaur, but at the end of the day I still control my brain, and while studies could say that’s not my fault at all, I’m not sure. It’s like a never ending cycle of inaction: I care a lot, then I do a whole lot of stuff, then I wonder if all this doing is really the right thing to do because I don’t really know enough to determine the whole scope of the issue, and then I’m confused.

There’s bound to be a middle ground between ignoring it and a grand action. Maybe it is doing something small consistently. I can’t say it’s a solution, but it’s something. Other than that, I’m hoping the automated message will call my cell phone some more so I can declare it a trend and have something to be indignant about.

Elaine Ayo can be contacted at e.ayo@umiami.edu.

February 15, 2005


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