Imagine you are in a busy traffic. You could hear the sound of siren of an ambulance behind you at a distance. In spite of the driver of the ambulance trying all tricks up his sleeve to somehow wade through the maddening rush hour traffic, there are few people who refuse to listen. They just want to get ahead of others come what may and don’t realize it could be the life or death situation for someone. There are few others, who just follow the ambulance in order to nose ahead of others in the queue. We keep reading the news of indifference shown by people around when unfortunate things happen to hapless people, be it robbery, accident or whatever. As a society, we have developed a thick skin and have become less sensitive to anything which does not affect ourselves and our closest family members.
From the height of selfless sacrifice of Jeemootavahana – who died for the cause of others to become a ‘living example’ of the ancient Indian saying Paropakararthamidam Shariram (परोपकारार्थमिदं शरीरम्) – life has come a full circle for us. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (वसुधैव कुटुंबकम्) – whole universe is my family – has been re-written; now it is ‘Family is the whole universe’ for us! In our unquenchable thirst for amassing wealth and comforts we don’t even think of the future of our own progeny! A quick look at the headlines of everyday newspapers, which carry the news of corruption by politicians, bureaucrats – sometimes even in those places where we shudder to think of corruption – like judiciary and defense sector, is enough for one to feel the all pervasiveness of this deadly virus.
This is a poem by Lutheran Pastor Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoeller, a poet who belonged to the era of Adolf Hitler:
First they came for the Communists,
Well, I was not a Communist –
So I said nothing.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
Well, I was not a Social Democrat
So I said nothing,
Then they came for the trade unionists,
But I was not a trade unionist.
And then they came for the Jews,
But I was not a Jew – so I did little.
Then when they came for me,
There was no one left who could stand up for me.
In the above poem Niemoeller, who was initially a supporter of Hitler, changed his allegiance and turned against him. The Hitler’s army initially came looking for Communists, and since the poet was not a Communist, he did not take notice. Then it was the turn of Social Democrats and then Trade Unionists. The poet was none of these and he just kept to himself without bothering to react. They came looking for Jews and since poet was not a Jew it did not affect his security. Ultimately, when the Hitler’s army came looking for the poet himself he looked around in disbelief, everybody else was already taken by the army and there was no one to help him in distress!
The motive of the pastor is immaterial for our purpose, it appears he turned an evangelist subsequently. But the message he gives in the poem has a universal appeal. It is relevant for today’s fast food culture than any other time in the past!