Relative Hardship

We humans are prone to self pity. This week, there is plenty of grumbling across the U.S. as snow and ice grip large segments of the country, snarling traffic, closing airports and triggering a wide range of accidents. Of course, when compared to our ancestors, who lived without heated homes, running water or even the hint of modern technology, our transient difficulties seem minor indeed.

And then there is Haiti. The citizens of that impoverished country may be immune to ice and snow but, one year after their devastating earthquake, much of the population still lives in tent cities. Despite the initial wave of attention and contributions and the continued efforts of public and private relief organizations, the suffering of Haitians has faded from our collective conciousness. The same, of course, is and has been true for other regions of the globe, where humans live on the edge of survival.

There is no doubt that many of us suffer from disaster fatigue, having contributed to a large number of relief funds and then left wondering what middle men and corrupt officials might benefit from our charity. But it is truly hard to justify the broad range of hardship that defines the human condition; a day or two in a U.S. airport is certainly less demanding than a year in a tent.