Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sturm und drang

I saw a very disturbing film last night--The Constant Gardener. It is billed as a political thriller told through the lens of a romance. The previews looked intriguing. While the story was very well crafted, the movie was shot creatively, and the performances were riveting, the overall impact was not pleasant. This movie hits you like a ton of bricks. If you have any compassion for fellow human beings at all, you can't help but be deeply disturbed by what this film shows. While it is based on a novel, I suspect what it depicts is not pure fiction. Basically it's about pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of poor Kenyans by using them as unwitting subjects in drug trials...specifically for an anti-TB drug that often has fatal side effects. It's the Tuskegee Experiment all over again. As if that weren't bad enough, the movie depicts shantytowns and villages where people live in such extreme poverty it is unbelievable. And then to top it all off, there are bandits that come around to steal from and kill these already beleaguered people. It really makes you take stock of your own life, and realize how easy we have it here. An embarrassment of riches. A nauseating abundance. I purchased dozens of Christmas gifts and will receive a many in return. Yet one in six people on this planet lives without running water! It makes you put things in perspective. Here I am, grumbling because they came out with the video iPod five months after I bought my iPod photo, and these people have to walk 40 km to get medical attention; they subsist on rice dropped by UN workers; and they live in fear that men on horses will sweep in, take what little they have, and/or murder them and their families. Atrocious.

I don't usually watch movies like that, because I prefer to be an ostrich with my head in the sand. At the same time, I feel guilty for choosing cheerful denial. Yet what can I do, realistically? Short of selling all my possessions (or better yet, giving them away) and joining the Peace Corps, I have no ideas. Of course the answer is to find some middle ground, between doing absolutely nothing and dedicating my life to the cause. That balance is frustratingly elusive.

On top of all that lovely stuff, I've been feeling restless. I used to get this way when I was a teacher, during summer vacations. Too long with nothing to do, and I get depressed, which means I don't want to do anything at all. So it becomes a vicious cycle. I'm depressed because I'm not doing anything, but I'm not doing anything because I'm depressed. I even went for a run today to see if that would help clear my head. All it did was demonstrate how badly out of shape I've gotten in the past few months. Blech.

Lastly, the secret ingredient to Melissa's stew of malcontent: ambivalence about starting a new relationship. Do I want to get involved with someone if it's not headed for marriage? How do you know if it's headed for marriage until you're already involved? Could I handle another breakup? Am I ready to let go of the past? Oy, it's enough to make a girl wanna go hide under the covers and not come out until spring. But then I go back to those poor people in Third World countries, who really have something to moan and groan about, and I feel ashamed for indulging in self-pity.

Aaaaaaah! I need to snap out of it. I am optimistic that tomorrow will be better.

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