What’s in this photo that elicits varied reactions worldwide? My personal take is this. When we went to the Villamor Air Base to volunteer for the survivors of the Supertyphoon Yolanda who were flew in to Manila from the ravaged areas courtesy of the Philippine Air Force, the American Air Force and the Japanese Air Force, one of the first rules on the ground was – NO SELFIE especially with the survivors. True enough, no volunteer, at least from our batch, dared to do a selfie. Everyone was in poise to welcome the survivors with their famished faces, some on wheelchairs. We were assigned as marshalls and because of the surplus of volunteers, the task assigned to us was to form two lines and in the middle of the line walked the survivors. We did two things as we behold their half-smiles, their consternation: applauded them for making it through, and greeted them with smiles. No flashes of cameras out of reverence for the survivors and their plight. It was enough to clap our hands and smile. What was needed was direct human, eye-to-eye contact needlessly mediated by technology.
So, we go back to the question – what is the undercurrent of this Obama-Schmidt-Cameron SELFIE in the CONTEXT of the liturgical homage to one of the most SELFLESS human beings of this century? Portentous enough of our generation’s self-obsession mediated only by the digital world, a world created by human ingenuity itself? Michelle Obama seem to have not bitten the apple here and therefore her poise has more philosophical honesty than the people beside her.
Long live the legacy of Nelson Mandela – anonymity for 27 prison years and self-effacing sacrament of true humanity.