The Thai government recently released an advertisement to be played on international media thanking the outside world for its involvement in the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai. “The world is one,” it says. “Thank you.”
The Tham Luang Cave drama was certainly remarkable. It is no exaggeration to say that millions of people around the globe were united in hope for the lost boys, sympathy for their families, and fear for the well-being of the international rescue team.
The joy and relief across the world at the success of the complex and daring rescue were palpable. And when the boys and coach Ekkapol Chantawong were given clean bills of health by a Chiang Rai hospital, they rewarded us yet again with a joyous dénouement in the form of a joint press conference, recorded by media from around the planet.
During these moments, the world was indeed one.
When the boys and coach were given clean bills of health by a Chiang Rai hospital, they rewarded us yet again with a joyous dénouement in the form of a joint press conference, recorded by media from around the planet. During these moments, the world was indeed one
Much was said during and immediately after the rescue about heroism. One undeniable hero was Saman Kunan, a former Royal Thai Navy diver who lost his life in the rescue effort. So were the other divers, Thai and foreign, who risked their lives to bring the boys out.
And so were the boys themselves, who could easily have panicked during the frightening extraction operation, jeopardizing their own lives and those of their rescuers and companions – but not one of them lost his cool.
And then there was Ekkapol, who gave the boys hope as they fought off hunger and fear during their more than two-week ordeal in the dark cave. Just a young man himself at 25, he was their father figure throughout. Their hero.
When talking about heroes, the word “inspiring” often comes up. So were we inspired by Ekkapol Chantawong, or by the late Saman Kunan, or the divers, or the Thai police who kept order throughout the drama, or the doctors and nurses who cared for the boys? If so, inspired to do what?
The reality is, our world is full of heroes, most of them unsung, and many actually persecuted. Do we laud, or even think about for a few seconds, the courage of parents risking life and limb to flee war and chaos in their homelands in the faint hope of finding a better life for their children? Do we clamor for our taxes to be raised a little so those who teach our kids aren’t forced to find a second job to make ends meet?
Do we now even remember how to spell the name of Malala Yousafzai? How many in her homeland have been “inspired” to oppose religious fanaticism and lobby for better education for girls? How many letters do we write to our MPs or congressmen to keep journalists and whistleblowers who have exposed the malfeasance of our rulers out of jail?
In fact heroes do very little to inspire battles against injustice, but maybe that’s as it should be. Civilization is a work in progress, a collective effort. Putting too much faith in a Mother Teresa or a Martin Luther King or a Bernie Sanders to light our path nearly always leads to disappointment.
The Thai cave rescue was a one-off event that brought out the best of human emotions as we observed it from afar. But they were our emotions, which are always at our disposal when we see someone in need, whether a loved one or a stranger.
The world is one, and heroism is within us all. It’s up to us what we do with it.