While I was standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to change, a woman with a baby in arms crossed the street with the pedestrian light still in red. She must be in a real hurry - I thought - to be willing to endanger both her life and the life of her child. Sadly, this was not the first time that I had witnessed something like this. We have all seen those people whose time is so precious that they feel like it is a waste of time waiting a few seconds for the light to turn green. In a world where the rush justifies the danger, what is the real value of a human life?
It’s been almost 20 years since I left Panama. Moving out of my country helped me understand that there was a world out there which was bigger than me. With time, living in different countries opened my horizons and my mind and gave me an appreciation for humanity. Nowadays, ageing has given me a sense of inclusiveness, and the realisation that we are just one species and that we are all equal. The knowledge that in spite of our superficial differences, we all have the same needs and fears and that my life is not worth any more or any less than any other person on the planet has been one of the most important lessons learnt in my life.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the value of a human life. From the complicity on gun violence of gun owners and gun associations; to police brutality in the US, France and Spain; to countries closing their borders on people fleeing from war and death, there is just too little appreciation for human lives these days. If you are regularly on social media like I am, you sometimes feel like the life of a cat or a dog is more precious than the life of another person.
I used to think that only people in power had the capacity to sit down in their offices just caring about their own interests while making decisions that affect millions of lives. But now, I've come to realize that we, the everyday people, do it as well.
We flick through our social media channels or news outlets judging and deciding the fate of other human beings by ignoring their requests for help; by supporting invasions and wars with other countries; by encouraging our government to close the borders on people fleeing conflicts that our own countries have created; or by cold-heartedly deciding whether someone should be fired, extradited, jailed or killed.
It is as if those faces that we see on the news or the internet are difficult to relate to because they are from far away. They are on the other side of our devices; they are not like us... But, they are! And sooner or later the ones in their position could be us. History has an unpredictable way of shifting the balance of power and when we least expect it, it could be us running for our lives.
This is the only life that we have. There is no after-life, no reincarnation, no heaven nor hell. This is it. Wouldn't it be better lived if we spent it appreciating a bit more our lives and the lives of others? Wouldn't it be worth it if we just waited a few seconds for the crossing light to turn green?
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