Have We Become Apathetic?

Webster’s dictionary defines the word Apathetic (adjective) as to show no feeling or emotion:
spiritless. Have we become apathetic to human life? How, can anyone show little or no concern
when it comes to people fleeing persecution, war, and tyrannical regimes? Is it easier not to think
about it? Do we not know about it? Would we prefer it to be another’s problem and not our own?
Are we just not capable of compassion?

The word opposite of apathetic is compassion which comes from the Latin root of “passio”
which means to suffer, and “com” as a prefix means together, suffer together. In fact, the word
has religious and philosophical roots going back to Thomas Aquinas who wrote “No one
becomes compassionate unless he suffers” Even the ancient Chinese traditions talk about
suffering and human concern, and how Kwan Yin is considered the goddess of compassion.
Hindu and Buddhist traditions talk of compassion as well. We know it has deep roots going back
centuries, so why do we still struggle with it today?

If we look at compassion and the refugee crisis, we can read and watch about how apathetic the
world has become. Refugees flee their homelands and risk the lives of their children to build a
better and free life. Many of those who flee will sell everything they own to pay smugglers to
take them from Turkey crossing the Aegean Sea to either Greece or Italy. Both are places that so
many around the world consider beautiful vacation spots, with views of yachts and beautiful
coastlines, not a sea where children’s bodies are floating next to their mothers or as a turquoise

According to the UNHCR, over 2,500 people are estimated to have died or gone missing trying
to reach Europe in the last 11 months. An uptick in smuggling activity has led Greece’s Maritime
Affairs Minister to call out Turkey saying, “these days, the criminal activity of smugglers, who
are indifferent to human life, has intensified, stacking dozens of distressed people, without life
jackets, on boats that do not even meet the basic safety standards,” and says Turkey “lets
smugglers act unchecked.” In the past two weeks, rescuers have been busy in the Aegean Sea.
Some refugees were rescued, and others lay as corpses waiting to be recovered. On December
25, the day that Christians around the world celebrated the birth of Jesus, a refugee, the Greek
coast guard was frantically searching for survivors of a boat that overturned near the island of
Paros. There were sixty-three people aboard to include mothers and young children.
Unfortunately, at least sixteen of those on board did not make it to include three women and a
baby. As borders close and the underlying issues of why people flee stay unresolved, refugees
will find other ways to seek a better life for themselves. Smugglers have figured if they cannot
get to Greece, they will make their way to Italy. A more dangerous route, but one that so many
are willing to take. Within the last two weeks, a boat that carried about eighty people left coast
guard boats, private yachts, planes, and even divers searching for survivors. The latest news
articles mention the high number of rescues has not been seen in Greek waters for months. The
weather is colder, the risks are higher but still, people are desperate to escape and will do
anything to include chancing the sea. According to Greek authorities, in the past week, ninety
people were stranded on an islet and rescued, and eleven bodies were recovered off Antikythera
a Greek island. The same week another three people were found drowned as a dinghy carrying refugees capsized close to another Greek island, Folegandros. There are estimations there were
thirty to fifty men, women, and children onboard which UNHCR said would make it the worst
loss of life for 2021 if accurate. A boat with ninety-two men and boys on board ran into the coast
of the Peloponnese Peninsula the same week. Does this uptick in activity give us an insight into
what is to come for the beginning of 2022? As policymakers and leaders of governments work to
either keep refugees out of their lands or insist on legal entry, the problem at sea for coast guards
and NGOs in refugee-prone waters will only intensify. Squabbles between nations will continue,
in fact, over the past several months more attention has been brought to pushbacks and tug of
war-type antics with Greek and Turkish vessels. Both countries accuse each other of pushbacks
and Greece accuses Turkey of letting people attempt to cross purposefully. Turkey and its
current leaders are known for their record of human rights abuses to include imprisonment of
women and children, torture, kidnappings around the world, and purging their own citizens. Just
this last week, the EU greenlighted a plan to give them another 3 billion euros (3.6 billion
dollars) over the next few years to assist Syrian refugees and boost controls at their borders.

More of the world needs to gain knowledge and compassion and not be apathetic towards those
experiencing the refugee crisis. More importantly, the underlying issues affecting refugees
urgently need to be addressed. If the EU and UN do not hold regimes like Turkey accountable
for human rights violations, then those very countries receiving billions in EU funds to take on
refugees will continue to churn out their own citizens adding to the refugee crisis. While those
compassionate in the world seek to solve and at the very least minimize the refugee drownings at
sea, those who choose to be apathetic will continue to add to the underlying issues and we will
continue to watch as more lives are lost, and the beautiful Aegean Sea becomes the postcard for a
turquoise cemetery.

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