I once visited an aquarium where each fish kept to his own area. I was struck by how sensitive some of them were to everything they encountered in their incessant and idle meandering through their respective liquid media: contact with any speck of vegetation, a minute piece of wire, even a bubble of air would immediately have an effect on their choice of direction, and their movements.
I then became curious to know how sensitive the fish were to what happened beyond the sheet of glass, which took up one whole side of the aquarium and allowed the visitors to observe them. What an illusion! They literally went so far as to place their mouths – and one could almost say, their eyes – on the glass. But the fish were insensitive to everything that went on beyond: a hand resting on the glass, gesticulating fingers, rapping on the glass – none of this caused the least sensation. The world outside the aquarium could come crashing down, and the fish would not pay the slightest attention to it as long as nothing happened inside their little liquid world.
I think of these fish when I consider the attitude of some of my contemporaries – and not a few of them – upon receiving news and commentaries about today’s world through the television, the radio and the press. With increasing frequency, they deal with individual, local, and even national catastrophes. At times even the destruction of the world in a nuclear hecatomb is discussed. The person who hears these reports remains indifferent as long as they do not cause immediate repercussions in the cubbyhole of each one’s petty private life.
Symptom of frightful corruption, aberrant contradictions, vertiginous indications of psychic imbalances in whole social groups – none of this is relevant as long as each one’s petty life continues unaltered for a few more days, or rather, a few more hours.
This attitude puzzles me. And just as in front of the aquarium I had the desire, fortunately controlled, to puncture the glass and poke the fish in order to make them really feel the reality of this external world I was in, and which they ignored with such unintelligent disdain, I also have the desire to break through some “sheets” of glass behind which some contemporary “fish” live esconced only in their own little world, indifferent to the one outside.