Notebook

To Live a Little

At the beginning of the week I received a communication from a young Syrian, the friend of a friend, trying to find a way of getting his mother and sisters to safety. To explain the urgency, he wrote: ‘Many of my sisters’ peers have been jailed, tortured, raped and slaughtered simply because of their humanitarian work during this immoral and barbaric war.’

Yesterday I saw this heading in a Norwegian newspaper, regarding the lifting of restrictions that will enable sports events to receive more spectators and bars to stay open into the night: ‘Now we can again begin to live a little.’

The contrast between the two perspectives is dizzying. One of the things Covid has revealed is the myopia to which we are all prone. To it, those of us who live in privileged safety easily yield. A year ago, pundits across the globe predicted a new world order of solidarity and compassion. The trouble is, we do not have it in us to pursue such high goals for long. To stick to them, we need to be enflamed by an ideal that brings us out of ourselves.