I don’t remember the exact reason Jorge changed the topic of our discussion from pleasantries to languishing and wasting away. He just suddenly began talking about the fate of the countless people existing in refugee prison camps in underdeveloped nations.
We see heart-wrenching photographs and videos of weary people crowded together in filthy living conditions begging for morsels of food. The images are broadcast in order to trigger our sympathy so as to encourage contributions to particular charities.
What about these millions of people? Not only are refugee prisons a waste of human potential–they are sources of needless, great suffering en masse. In most cases, the refugees cannot return to their former homes and they are restricted from integrating into the culture of where they had imagined to be a haven.
Jorge also mentioned that similar tragic consequences happen in prisoner of war camps. He pointed out the victims of Nazi and fascist Japanese regimes during the Second World War in particular. Their treatment of POWs is infamous in its inhumanity and brutality. It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than languishing away in a concentration camp or a Japanese prison/work camp.
We might see documentaries or read accounts of the inmates who endured such treatment. Doing so, we feel compassion and empathy for them. However, we can never truly know what it was like to exist in such situations.
The problem of people languishing in jails and prisons is a controversial problem in the United States today. One may well argue that those who commit very serious crimes deserve every minute of their sentences. On the other hand, are those who must spend several years behind bars for committing petty crimes.
In many cases, the prisoners receive little or no rehabilitation education. Many do not have access to outside information in the first place. All that is left for these prisoners is violence among themselves or just staring blankly at the bars of their cells. This is especially poignant in the case of inmates who were convicted of crimes they did not do or people who were framed by the actual miscreants.
I brought up the problem of elderly people who live in nursing homes. Certainly, most nursing homes are pleasant places for our aging relatives to live out the rest of their lives. There are other homes that are quite unpleasant. They serve as warehouses for legions of senior citizens. Jorge said that he hopes nobody ever sends him to a nursing home when he gets older. I agreed with him.
So what was the point of the conversation? It wasn’t a brainstorming session. It was merely a conversation that evolved from small-talk over coffee. The fact that millions of people have and will continue to languish away in situations out of their control is ever-present.
Both Jorge and I visit our aging relatives who live in nursing homes. We both contribute to charities as much as we can. But we are just average, everyday people who have many priorities and activities that keep us very busy. All either of us can do is to think and talk about the problems. We don’t want to ignore these situations that seem as inevitable as death and taxes. Sometimes all we can do is write about them.