For our entertainment, we commonly turn to stories that would – and regularly do – horrify us when real. The psychologist David Zald talks of our attraction to ‘controlled fear’ – we love being afraid as long as we can keep it within limits. When I see them on the news, though, such stories dismay me. Are we civilised beings or monsters? But that dichotomy is simplistic. The question is whether the monster lurking within each civilised being is, under certain circumstances, bound to win. To watch the news, one would think the answer is yes.
Which is why, from time to time, it’s good to come across a story that uplifts. Examples of human behaviour that make no place for the fear, hatred and ignorance upon which the monster thrives. Hence the WATWB: “We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.
Cédric Herrou is a French farmer near the Italian border, where migrants hunker down in bleak conditions in the hope of making it into France. The French authorities, often tipped off by the inhabitants of this most wealthy part of France, do their best to stop them. Cédric Herrou, on the contrary, does his best to help them, thus breaking the law. Arrested, he was brought to trial and given a suspended $3000 fine. The penalty could have been harsher, but Herrou has attracted a lot of support. His actions have exposed the ambiguity and awkwardness of the French approach to the issue.
Herrou knows that what he does is not the answer to a complex, global situation. But as he says, ‘either I close my eyes or I don’t.’ Every so often in the news, there’s a story of a person who doesn’t. And inured as we’ve become to the regular footage of migrants drowning at sea, that can only be good. Now it’s up to politicians to tackle the wider issue. But in that, I’m less optimistic.