I missed the memo about Easter Island, Indifference and Orange is the New Black.
Over the weekend, my husband was geeking out watching this documentary about how the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island transported the ginormous statues from where they were carved to their final resting places. I managed to watch a few minutes myself and it was intriguing as hell. These statues are huge and were carved centuries ago. These folks had simple tools and not much in the way of transportation technology, so how in the name of Zeus’ butt hole* did they move these massive creations over several miles of sometimes hilly terrain?
Well, it’s a marvel of engineering and ingenuity that I cannot even begin to explain. But as I contemplated this feat of human achievement, something struck me. These “primitive” people had been able to tackle a pretty extraordinary problem and work out a solution using pretty limited resources. And here we are, with the interwebs and science, and space ships and whatnot, with lots and lots of unsolved human problems. If ancient Polynesians could move a monolith over many miles, then it stands to reason that we human beings could solve pretty much any problem we set our big brains upon. As a species, we sorta decide where we are going to direct our brain power, and some problems don’t get solved because we simply choose not to solve them.
And this brings me to Orange Is the New Black…OMG people, have you watched this show?
I binge-watched the whole series a couple of weekends ago. So totally engrossing. And because OITNB is like crack, and I was totally hooked, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Piper Kerman‘s memoir which inspired the series. Ms. Kerman’s descriptions of the people she met and the experiences she had in prison were just as compelling as the TV show. But what really got me was her reflection on themes of empathy and indifference. She considered her own misdeed (of carrying drug money) and expressed some gut-wrenching remorse about it, not just because it got her locked up, but because, once she saw the face of addiction in some of her fellow inmates, she really understood that she had been a part of the agony that addicts endure. She observed that the “central thing that allows crime to happen [is] indifference to other people’s suffering.”
The juxtaposition of Polynesia and prison got me thinking… human beings are utterly amazing and we also suck really, really bad. Our capacity for problem-solving and industry are apparently limitless. As such, there should be very little suffering in the world. But somehow we are indifferent to lots of forms of that suffering, and thus don’t apply our big, fat brains to the cause of helping to alleviate it. Or worse, we go all Lex Luthor and use our intellect to victimize people with crimes large and small.
Rather than getting all depressed about this, I am trying to feel empowered. Even though we suck, we can do extraordinary and deeply good things. Our ancestors may not have moved mountains, but they moved big freakin’ hunks of rock. If I exchange my indifference for empathy once in a while, maybe I can move a pebble or two myself.
So glad I didn’t have to go to prison to get this memo. I look like shit in orange. Memo received.
*Bonus points for this reference…hint…if you squint, it is thematically related to this post.