What about the children? Pt. 2

 

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Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

We often forget, as the more mature adults we consider ourselves to be, to think of the little ones. The children who so heavily rely on our understanding of the world, when we ourselves minimally question our behaviors but defend adamantly with a stubborn confidence. But how much of our claim of protecting children is actually true?

Does our empathy have a limit? 

As apathetic as it may sound, the answer is a resounding yes. 

And despite the constant flow of images, the horrid news stories, and persistent virtual exposure, humans seem to have little empathy for the masses. This behavior eases the imposition of harsh “resolutions” from politicians and civilians alike to fix the problem of removing refugees, deporting families, denying asylum, ethnical cleansing, bombing countries, and creating famines. 

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Reuters/Adrees Latif

Why are we like this? 

The answer is psychic numbing

Led by psychologist Paul Slovic, the research results on psychic numbing can be grim. How much is too much for human compansion or at the least, attention that leads to action?  

Here is a snippet of an interview with Dr. Slovic for Vox

Paul Slovic

I’ve been doing research on risk for close to 60 years now. [In the 1970s] I was struck with Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work on prospect theory. It had something called a value function in it, which indicated how people value things as the amounts increased. Changes at small levels had a big impact, and then as the magnitudes got larger, it took more and more of a difference to be noticeable.

The difference between, say, $0 and $100 feels greater than the difference between $100 and $200. If you’re talking about $5,800 or $5,900 — [both] seem the same, even though it’s still $100 difference.

I talked with Tversky about that, and [wondered] if that applied to lives. We both figured it would — and that this is really a pretty scary kind of thing.

It means that there is no constant value for a human life, that the value of a single life diminishes against the backdrop of a larger tragedy.

Brasília, Brazil

Picture a description of Brave New World:

A brief reference to the Hatchery itself — a “squat” building of “only thirty-four stories” — also gives a sense of the surrounding landscape, a city, by implication, of lofty heights. 

That was the eerie impression I received from Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Founded in 1960, the capital was built on an immensely ambitious dream led by then-president Juscelino Kubitschek.

Suffocated by the violence and humidity of Rio de Janeiro and drowning in the vastness of São Paulo, Kubitschek, riding on a high train of economic prosperity developed a daring idea, to move the capital of Brazil to a climatically balanced and regionally convenient area. The expeditious construction of Brasília lasted 3.4 years, under the supervision of Lúcio Costa, and the architectural plans of Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer envisioned Brasília to be representative of its future, following the almost laughable flag motto of order and progress. Architecturally, each governmental and residential building has a sterile and clean finish that is properly referred to as Modernism. I later found out my judgment wasn’t far off, for Oscar Neimeyer was a die-hard communist.

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 Palácio do Planalto the President’s workplace 
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Oscar Niemeyer’s plan called for Brasília to be shaped like an airplane. The body contains governmental/administrative buildings and the wings are where the upper-class resides. 

Toribío, Colombia 

As many may already know (thank you novelas that overshadow the much more abundant history of Colombia), the Colombian drug war has been anything but “cool.” The violence is often embellished in the latest trending Netflix series, stuffed with rad tactics, and incredibly action-packed scenes. But in reality, the war has truly been a divisive tragedy that affects every single civilian in the country. The situation has led politicians to satiate their gluttony with money birthed from the narcotics, intermingling in their pockets with the money of the people and the cartel. Complicating the corruption, the FARC, for some time, protected farmers who grew coca, in exchange for a large portion of their income. These same farmers would later be displaced from their homes, ambulating into traffic packed cities, whose job market could not match the ever-growing migrant’s population. In fact, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “a shocking 5,840,590 people were registered as being internally displaced in Colombia” in 2014.

But in 2016, two extremely important events occurred in Colombia:

  • After 52 years of the insistent civil war many had been born into, the FARC neared ending talks to sign a peace treaty with the Colombian government to lay down their weapons. The peace treaty became official in 2017. 
  • Marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes.  

Both decisions have been met with traditionalist opposition: Peace treaty? Those criminals should be sent to jail to pay for their crimes! Marijuana? Now you’ll have a bunch of addicts meandering the streets.

Whatever the opinions of others may be, I have an anecdote to share about post-civil war, post-legalization, from the little town of Toribío.