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It's a question acrid enough to turn any epicurean dinner party into a contemporary existential crisis... how can we truly be happy (and so blithely dine on fine wine and artisanal cheese) when we are aware of so much suffering in the world?
Can we achieve a state of individual bliss despite the misfortunes of so many fellow humans or is our pursuit of happiness in the face of global disparity a Sisyphean exercise, akin to when the gods made the avaricious Ancient Greek king roll a giant boulder up a mountain as punishment?
Sisyphus, of course, discovered that the boulder would always roll down before he could get it to the top, forcing him to begin the pointless exercise anew, for eternity.

Are we repeating his futile pursuit?

One is hard-pressed to dodge bad news in today's hyper plugged-in society. You might switch on your computer with the simple intent of browsing for socks on the internet, only to wind up watching news clips about yet another suicide bombing in Syria. You don't even have to be plugged in to receive such news, why it just so happened to me the other day; it was lunch time and I was about to bite into my chicken and salad wrap with extra mayo when I answered a call that turned out to be a charity soliciting extra donations to supply more equipment to refugee camps after the discovery of mass Rohingya burial sites in which many people were found to be buried half alive.
My wrap promptly lost its appeal and for a brief moment I lost my will to live.
I recalled the words of a French-Canadian documentary maker and journalist I met whilst travelling through Vietnam years ago, who philosophised that much of our fate is predetermined by where we are born. Depending on which country we are born into, our existence may already be coupled to poverty, lack of education, religious persecution or gender discrimination even before our direct familial circumstances come into play. I counted my lucky stars that I was born in a lucky country.

It crystallised in me then that if one happens to be born into a 'lucky country', one should acknowledge and be aware of how lucky indeed one is. With this acknowledgement of our luck, perhaps we also need to accept that it is our duty to do what we can to help make the lives of those less fortunate a little more so. Perhaps this is the key to our own fortune and happiness.

I hear you ask, why should it matter to our own happiness if strangers across the globe are facing injustice, persecution or famine for instance?
Yes it is sad, yes it is devastating, but should it affect our inner peace?
The concept of collective trauma dictates that whether and how it affects us is not up to us to decide. Collective trauma is a psychological effect shared by a group of people, generations or an entire society. We see it in play and accept that it's in play in indigenous minority groups around the world and amongst Holocaust survivors and their communities.
Is it such a stretch to conceive that it is also played out amongst the global community as a result of current sufferings? That means each and every one of us experience it, at the very least to some subconscious degree and most definitely regardless of personal intent.
In French sociologist Émile Durkheim's 1897 book Suicide, he discusses the concept in practical application when he states that "when there is a lack of moral guidance, integration or solidarity in society (a condition he coins Anomie), suicide rates are higher."

It begs the question, if we are bound to experience collective trauma yet we cannot control world affairs, how do we live happily?

Frantz Omar Fanon, a Martinician physician, philosopher and revolutionary active in the 1940s and 50s (he died in 1961) wrote, after his attempts to treat Algerians during liberation war,
The result is a collective trauma that will pass through generations. There is no magic formula of rehabilitation. Collective trauma can be alleviated through cohesive and collective efforts such as recognition, remembrance, solidarity, communal therapy and massive cooperation.
This imparts a sense of relief, albeit moderate, because whilst we cannot control world affairs we can dictate what these efforts look like in real terms on an individual level. As individuals, we may choose to donate money to a charity or time to a cause or simply give a homeless person a bottle of cold water on a really hot day.
These small acts are acts of solidarity and together amount to massive cooperation and communal therapy.
One thing is for certain in this life and that is that our happiness is bound by others (whether we like it or not). Therefore our own happiness cannot be if we ignore the suffering of our global compatriots. If we ignore, we risk Durkheim's state of anomie and a society in which a guilty collective conscience prevails.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke.


  1. Maria I was wondering, have you ever given consideration as to whether the Christian faith is true and not mythological? Most people don't realize that there's very strong evidence which supports the authenticity of the NT writings. In fact there are no ancient writings with manuscripts anywhere near as prolific (across several ancient languages) nor anywhere near as close to the events they record as that of the Christian writings. And you may not believe this either, that the evidence that points toward a Creator, or intelligent designer, is very strong too, contrary to popular belief. I can recommend books or online videos that argue these points cogently and clearly.

    Have you ever considered the case for Jesus? Really considered it? Have you ever seriously, in a very direct and personal way, sought out whether God exists, whether Jesus truly is God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity, as Christians claim? He doesn't withhold himself from anyone who sincerely desires to know him.

    I know the clamour of secularism, post-modernism, atheism and new ageism are all very strong, and so too their objections to the Christian faith. Christianity is perceived in popular culture very poorly for the most part, so I'm guessing there's a good chance you've never given it serious consideration, but I may be wrong.

    Why do I ask? Well because I think your thoughts are really beautiful. They're deep, thoughtful and most of all empathetic. Very much as to what is the heart of Jesus, the heart of God. He cares deeply too. And, also, this: the Christian faith, Jesus, the Bible say profound things regarding the things you raise. Powerful things infused with great love, hope, meaning and compassion. Jesus, like you, cared for the lowly, suffering and downtrodden, and he chose to make his home among them rather than with the well to do, the trendy, or those seeking the abundant pleasures of this life. So, yeah, you have his heart and concern, when most have more concern for the pleasures of this world. I hope one day, if you haven't already, you come to know him.

    Feel free not to make this public on your comments section. I won't be offended. All the best (:

    1. Hello Peter, thank you for taking the time to comment. I want readers to feel welcome and be able to say what they feel. Thank you for your very kind words!


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