What does it feel like to be caught in a systemic cycle of suffering? In Peckham, south-east London, where I lived for seven years, many families have experienced five generations of unemployment, neglect, illiteracy and poverty. To be in pain because you are stuck in a faceless, impersonal system that grinds on and on is hard to imagine if you have not experienced it personally.
When Chinese workers in the main iPhone factory in China began killing themselves in large numbers in 2010, it became a story in the Western press. The corporation went so far as to install large nets outside many of the buildings to catch falling bodies. The company hired counsellors, and workers were made to sign pledges stating they would not attempt to kill themselves. The popularity of the iPhone continued to increase.
Britons were shocked in December 2018 to hear that a 43-year-old homeless man had died from cold outside Parliament while MPs debated legislation inside the chamber. The man, Gyula Remes, was found by British Transport Police outside Westminster Underground Station, directly opposite the Houses of Parliament. A woman who knew him told the BBC, “He was blue last night, and everyone was just walking past him like he didn’t matter.”
In countries where corrupt and privileged elites hold down the vast majority of the population in poverty, human suffering is rife. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who experienced Stalin’s tyranny in the Soviet Union and was sent to the Gulag, wrote, “Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”
Where is God? Does God have any relevance in the face of great mountains of human degradation and pain.