It is a week since the twelve boys of a Thai football team and their coach were rescued from flooded caves where they had been trapped for more than two weeks. Since then, the world’s attention has shifted to other events and those who crave it, perhaps because it bestows on them worth that they do not otherwise have.
But for those who care about humanity as a whole, not just the powerful or celebrities among us, the story of the plight of the boys and the massive effort to rescue them will live on. It was evidence of the good inherent in human beings that is so often overshadowed by so much evil around us and that has turned many to despair and cynicism. In this sense it restored faith in the generous spirit that we all possess, but that we do not show much.
For those two weeks, the story of the boys gripped the whole world. Everyone, everywhere was concerned about them, their well-being and safety and hopeful return to their families.
Those who believe in the power of divine intervention offered prayers. The more practical presented their expertise. Others simply volunteered to be of some use. Many more, unable to do any of these, offered hope. We saw extra-ordinary bravery, fortitude, compassion and sacrifice all around.
It was good to see all the world come together in affirmation of our common humanity and shared vulnerabilities. It is rare but shows solidarity is not dead
As the story unfolded, questions came to mind. Why don’t we always act like this, be each other’s keeper, and defend our common identity? Why don’t we put all our energies, intelligence and knowledge into what can save us all?
But alas, it doesn’t always happen like that. We use all these to destroy each other and our shared earth.
Some are busy fuelling conflict across the world, driven by the desire to dominate, oversized egos or hatred. We have such in the neighbourhood. There are those who cannot bear to see others make progress and are prepared to do everything to bring them down. They will scuttle any peace plans so that conflict continues, and they continue to pretend to be arbiters.
People continue to flee their countries in ever growing numbers in search of better living conditions because they cannot find them at home. And when they turn up at other people’s borders, they are driven away, detained or sold as slaves.
Their plight at sea in open, overloaded rickety boats, or across searing sands of deserts does not seem to move politicians much.
You don’t see the same coming together, driven by anger or indignation, to enforce better conditions in their countries of origin, or to take them in, or at the very least speak on their behalf and condemn who or what makes them risk their lives.
That happened only briefly when CNN carried reports of African migrants being sold in slave markets in Libya. A few African countries announced plans to rescue those Africans from such indignity. Some, like Rwanda, keenly felt the indignity and made genuine offers. Others may have done so more out of shame than indignation. In any event, not much has been heard since then.
In the United States, children of migrants are separated from their parents, destroying the bonds of family and community. Human rights organisations based there and usually strident about human rights violations in other parts of the world have been unusually reticent in their condemnation of such blatant abuse at home.
Even the most horrible crime against humanity such as the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was not bad enough to bring the world together to stop it. Indeed those who stopped it have often been vilified for doing so. Instead the perpetrators are given shelter and shielded from prosecution. Even those convicted and sentenced find their punishment drastically reduced by some judges with a twisted judicial mind and no soul.
The list is long.
However, the story of the rescue of the members of a Thai boys football team taught us a different lesson. It demonstrated that it is possible to act in a human way; that life is valuable and worth saving regardless of whose it is. And for that, people are prepared to go to any length, face any risks, and make any sacrifice.
The world today may be uncaring, characterised by selfishness, greed and even brutality, but the story of the boys and their rescue shows that there is still some goodness in us. We are not yet beyond redemption.
The boys may not have known it when they wandered into the caves and their rescuers may not have intended it when they resolved to get them out safely, but they have all restored faith in that goodness.