Compassion Fatigue

Hearing the news about a mosque burning down in the US doesn’t evoke as strong a response as it should. Muslims around the world have become so accustomed to hearing news of such atrocities being carried out against their fellow brethren that even a drone strike on innocent civilians prompts nothing more than a woeful sigh, a shake of the head, sometimes accompanied by a muttered prayer, and often a curse for the aggressors.

It’s the downside of being human. Our ability to adapt and cope dictates that our tolerance levels will rise each time we experience something despicable. This implies that we’ll shrug our shoulders to heinous crimes that we’ve accepted we cannot prevent or avenge in any way, and so we distract ourselves with much more menial issues to compensate for the helplessness that we feel in other areas of grave concern. But this never lasts forever. At some point we realise that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t make us stronger, but in fact, it only makes us more tolerant, to a point.

There’s another effect that is often overlooked when people so dreamily proclaim that same cliche. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. No it doesn’t. It starts something in you that grows as long as your capacity and tolerance for it can harbour it until eventually you reach breaking point and suddenly realise that it never made you stronger to begin with. It only made you brittle. With each incident that wears away at your dignity and security, you practice tolerance and patience, but until the underlying tension is addressed, you become more brittle each day until eventually you lose any flexibilty and give way to the extremist that lurks in everyone. But at that point, no one is able to witness the horrors and taunts that preceded that final straw, so instead of understanding that the victim has finally lashed out, they become the victims and accuse you of unwarranted aggression instead.

Perspective. Context. Understanding. It’s been a while since I witnessed their inclusion in any rational debate about being human, or about human rights and dignity.



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2 responses to “Compassion Fatigue”

  1. Our tolerance has made us poor sympathisers, the less we care, the less we pray / help. If we simply sigh at the woes of our fellow Muslims then we’re belittling their struggles, isn’t that so?

    I think the frequency of these calamities only amplify the fuel of hatred & disgust against ignorance. Would it not be ignorant to simply “tolerate” the despicable atrocities committed against another human, regardless of race / religion? Its so sick that it’s become a norm to hear of war / terrorism / suffering in the same breath as fickle frivolous sports & celebrity news.

    Maybe Im being cynical today, but it is so disheartening that our emotions have run dry, we aren’t as passionate as we really should be. Frustrating stuff!!

    • I’m glad you see the point I was trying to make with this. Others thought I was being insensitive or unfair. We’re so busy looking outwardly for acceptance and solutions that we fail to see the glaring gaps in our internal structures in the Ummah that prevent us from being self-sufficient in these matters. I get the feeling that we constantly present ourselves as beggars to the West hoping that they will extend a gracious hand to affirm our significance and take us in. It’s really ridiculous. The more we ignore the smaller issues of self-reliance and cohesiveness, the less likely we are to realise how impotent we’ve become in being able to deal with untoward aggression against us.

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