This topic comes up, not only because I live in a houseful of teenagers, but because I live in a country where we are pretty much intent on finding joy for ourselves, even at the expense of others. It's not like we trample people lying in front of us, but we aren't overly aware of how our actions affect others.
I thought about this last night and again this morning while listening to the radio. A small town near Columbus decided to ban texting while driving. The radio spoke with a woman whose husband was killed in a car accident because the other driver was texting. The woman's voice was raw as she asked how that driver could have thought that her text message, her communication with someone by phone, was more important than someone's life. Of course, if we asked the driver, she would not have said that her text was more important than the man's life. But she was busy thinking about what she needed. She was entertaining herself, or answering someone's question about where she was, or her plans for that evening. I never thought that texting or talking on the phone was self-centered until I heard the wife's words about her husband's death.
Then this morning the radio played some clips from the UN conference where President Obama spoke on, among other things, global warming. He said, "all nations must act responsibly." That doesn't seem self-centered. Later, the president of the Maldives spoke urging nations to make a difference at a global warming conference in December that takes place in Copenhagen. Global warming means something different to President Mohammed Nasheed, leader of an island nation that barely keeps its head above sea level. The story at NPR put it this way: "Nasheed said he's often called upon to remind people in the rich countries about the fate of small island states, but he says the world continues on, business as usual."
How selfish are we that idling in the car in the drive through is more important than the fate of the people in the Maldives. Our wants are more important than their needs, than their existence.
Here are Nasheed's exact words, taken from the NPR story:
When the Maldives desperately want to believe that one day our words will have an effect. And so we continue to shout them even though deep down we know that you're not really listening.
Ouch! That hurt. That takes me right back to Horton Hears a Who. Here is a tiny island calling and waving, warning us of the danger, and we drive two blocks to the dry cleaners, or turn the air conditioning on because it is 80 degrees outside.
Maybe it is time for us to figure out, as people, as Americans, as members of the Western world, that each of our actions is having a reaction somewhere.
I'm going to work on being less self-centered. Maybe it will spread as quickly as swine flu.
Here's the complete NPR story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113107142
Texting photo used with permission from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wishardofoz/3468355123/