Ok, so I call myself a Liverpool fan (and I’m talking about football here (and for any non-British readers, that’s the proper, original type of football…)) And I am a Liverpool fan, really I am. But I’m just not a very good one. I’m not the type to cry in the event of a loss. I certainly wouldn’t leave the stadium part way through a match just because my team was losing (quite apart from anything else, it would strike me as a waste of money to do so). But despite my shortcomings in the area of fanning, I am nevertheless a Liverpool fan.
Yesterday, Liverpool were playing in the FA Cup semi-final. I decided I’d watch it. Sunday afternoon, seemed like a good idea. So I turned the telly on and flicked through to find it. But, shock horror, it was on BT Sport (seriously!) which is a subscription channel that we don’t subscribe to. This is pretty absurd, as FA Cup stuff has tended always to be on the BBC (which is free (ish)) So I settled down in front of the telly to watch it on the Radio. Radio 5 Live had the match commentary on. I know it’s a bit weird watching the radio, but there we go…
As I was listening, I decided that the fact I couldn’t see what was happening was making me care less about the game and the result. I followed the match but, even for a pretty rubbish supporter, I was surprised by my lack of engagement. Oh sure, it was quite annoying when Liverpool had a perfectly good goal disallowed. But the fact that I couldn’t see it being wrongly ruled offside from numerous different camera angles in glorious slow-motion seemed to stop me from caring quite so much.
The match just didn’t quite grab me as much as I think it would have done if I’d seen it rather than just heard it.
And that got me thinking about suffering (my mind makes funny jumps sometimes). I was thinking about the sinking boats of hopeful (or hopeless?) refugees from North Africa. I thought about people being executed by IS. I thought about the absolute barrage of ripped-up lives that the media hits us with day in and day out. And I think sometimes seeing those things makes me care more. And I’m sure that’s not lost on the media, but I wondered if that wasn’t perhaps a bad thing. Surely I should care deeply about our broken and hurting world without having to have visual proof. I shouldn’t have to see the faces of those Christians burnt alive in a brick kiln for me to care. I shouldn’t have to see body bags lifted into vehicles on the European coast to be concerned about the flood of the desperate.
Surely my empathy shouldn’t rely so heavily on whether or not I can see those who are suffering.