Russia has invaded Ukraine. The world is topsy turvy, replete with suffering. And I sit comfortably in my Jerusalem apartment, while society burns down from a distance. Helpless. Again.
Trying to get some semblance of an understanding of what the hell is happening.
My Faceless Job
Sometimes I don’t appreciate what happens throughout the course of my workday.
By the time the day is over, I will have communicated with dozens of people. But to me, they are faceless. They have no personalities. No likes, no dislikes. There is no family history.
I don’t know how their day was before they wrote in to me. And I don’t know anything about how the rest of their day will look either.
But just imagine for a moment who these people could be!
One moment I could be chatting with a Brazilian entrepreneur. The next a Taiwanese woman who runs a non-profit designed to help starving, underprivileged children. And moments later I could be going back and forth with some sly scammer from Myanmar, trying to convey to him that there is little to no hope they will ever be allowed access to their account again.
The faceless computer pixels in front of me could have just gotten married. Or divorced. Or jumped out of a plane. Or cured a disease. Or just hid their twelfth victim in their basement. And meanwhile, I’m just solving their relatively insignificant email marketing problems, the whole time completely unaware of the world happening on the other side of that computer conversation.
Real People, Real Suffering
Then Covid began.
And people started feeling a lot more real to me.
One day someone’s requesting a discount, because their business is falling apart. Entertainment, hotels, restaurants, travel bloggers, and so many more. The next day, some need to take a break. Others need to scale back their undertakings. And some others had to bid a permanent farewell to their business. Their lifelong dream was now a thing of the past.
And despite the fact that empathy is extremely challenging on a computer screen, I was saddened on a day-to-day basis. I felt so much pain for what people were going through. For the lives and livelihoods damaged by the disease, or the measures taken to mitigate its spread.
It was actually quite helpful for me. I remained gainfully employed through the duration of the crisis. I worked from home before everything began, and just stayed that way afterwards. No problem. Just a relatively small inconvenience.
When that happens it’s shockingly easy to forget what’s happening around you. It’s easy to overlook destroyed lives and shattered dreams.
But I was fortunate that my job kept me grounded. Not a day went by in which I wasn’t reminded by a customer of the pain they felt, of the massive disruption their lives had received. And I’m grateful, because it had such a great impact on how I looked at the world around me. It’s so much harder to ignore suffering that’s happening right in front of you.
And here we go again. The Russian government would like to demonstrate to the world that they don’t care about growth. They don’t care about history moving forward.
We would like to think of the world as more enlightened than it used to be. Barbarians don’t raid villages anymore. Savages don’t invade other countries, killing whoever stands in their way.
But there are still a few countries left in this crazy world that haven’t accepted the new world order. And Russia represents one of the most backwards of the batch.
But despite recognizing the insanity of their invasion, and understanding the enormous implications this can have on the entire world, I still didn’t feel what was happening. It still felt like the world was quiet, and any danger was too distant to matter directly in my life.
Until a work email came through.
A Ukranian customer needed to pause his account due to the situation in Ukraine. His business was non-functional, and the suffering was beyond real. And all of a sudden, something clicked in my brain that wasn’t there beforehand.
The horrors of war became something I could no longer ignore. My defense mechanisms were shattered.
I started picturing what it would be like to feel the ground shake, to look outside your window and see a missile landed on a building just a five-minute walk from your home. There’s commotion, people running in every direction, screaming, with flames reaching way up into the sky.
But it’s not just a horrifying sight. The missiles are still coming in Ukraine. The next one could land on your home, or close enough that burning hot shrapnel could get wedged into your stomach or thigh.
And absolutely nothing about your life will ever be anywhere near to normal again.
Your family could be destroyed. Friends and relatives lost forever. Or damaged beyond repair, physically or psychologically.
The Flip was Switched
I immediately reached out to a friend, a Couch Surfer who lives in Ukraine, to check on her. Because the suffering worlds away from me had suddenly felt like it was in my backyard.
And since then I haven’t stopped thinking about how complicated the world is, and how simple it is to dismiss things so far out of our immediate reach.
Another piece of my job that’s relevant here are sanctions. There are a small handful of countries or regions with governmental sanctions upon them. What a joke of a system! We can’t sell a website or an email marketing plan to some poor soul in Syria just trying to make a buck, because of actions by a tyrannical government. What’s the logic? A random person will knock on their leaders’ doors and convince them their policies are hurting the country?
If that really is the logic, I think we as a society have a long way to go before we can truly understand what’s going on in the insane mind of a Vladimir Putin. If a violent dictator wants to wage a barbaric and ill-designed war, words and threats and unhappy citizens won’t stop them.
No One Wants This
It’s so easy to forget: The Russian people don’t want this war either, and they’re suffering too. Yet I feel like there’s an eery air of indiscriminate anti-Russian sentiment right now, as if some truck driver in St. Petersberg really feels some angst toward the people of Ukraine.
No, right now there’s a world of suffering. Ukranians and Russians will both be harmed by all of this, for years to come. And unchecked dictators will continue to do their thing, without concern for the lives stepped on in the process.
We’re not doing enough, that’s for sure. But no one has yet to figure out a solution that actually solves problems. Or even really improves upon matters.
I pray to God we find those solutions fast. So many lives are at stake. And we can’t just sit back and hope matters resolve themselves. They won’t. They rarely do. And the longer we wait, the worse everything will be.We can't just sit back and hope matters resolve themselves. They won't. They rarely do. And the longer we wait, the worse everything will be. Click To Tweet