I just came across the story of the 12 year-old Australian girl who briefly united the digital world. By losing her teddy bear. The following is a clip from The Sunday Telegraph article:
"'It has been so traumatic,' Mrs Malcolm [girl's mother] told The Sunday Telegraph.
'We had been in London for a month on a family holiday and I put Teddy in the bag and locked it up so we wouldn't lose her - but Jess didn't want to go the 24 hours without her, so we took her out again and brought her on the plane.'
Jessica's grandmother had a teddy bear shop and gave her Teddy when she was born, and she has slept with her every single day since.
'If you know Jess, you know that Teddy is part of her life.'"
I understand the significance of artifacts in our lives, as well as how coming to another's aid can build relationships and teach valuable life lessons. I am not the best with seeing life lessons, but even I sees red flags all over the place.
The fact that she is twelve and in severe emotional distress at this "loss" is disturbing, however, that is an issue that she (and her enabling family) will deal with on an individual and micro-communal level, so it is not really pressing nor the business of the rest of the world. My problem was with how immediately and with such severity the world rallied.
What is the big deal, you may ask? Excellent question. Effort and time are finite resources. If used in one place, they cannot be used in another. If more and more of these stories become glorified as "restoring faith in humanity," then our ethical compass will become reinforced toward those types of solutions, rather than toward saving whales from military sonar experiments, preventing mines from being built which will destroy nature, preventing the earth's water supply from being poisoned, or protecting feminists from malice. (Regarding this last issue, it was just brought to my attention that activist and feminist Lierre Keith has been verbally and sexually threatened in anticipation of a talk she is about to give in Oregon.)
What I view as really scary is how the girl's mother said the digital world's rescue effort "restored her faith in humanity." Even Russell Crowe became involved! Her child did not have terminal cancer, was not trapped in the bottom of a well, was not taken hostage by terrorists, was not raped and left for dead; she lost her teddy bear due to her own negligence. The girl could have left the toy in the luggage as her mother suggested, but she "could not be without it." When it was lost, it was a great opportunity for real-world consequences but the rest of the world played the part of the great enabler and rallied to return it.
Helping one another in a time of need is a virtue, so long as we think before we do it, and think as we do it. If we help each other based on emotional impulse, then not only will we be global enablers, but we will be resetting our ethical compass away from actual, substantive problems like destruction of nature and human rights, rather than the historically-irrelevant loss of a 12-year old's security blanket.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new essays.