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Naivety in Perspective

One of my favourite T.V. programs is a series called Banged Up Abroad. I started watching Banged Up Abroad when I watched a couple of back-to-back episodes: the first episode told the story of and Cullen Thomas, working with his girlfriend "Rocket", arrested trying to smuggle hashish from the Philippines to South Korea. The second episode I watched was about Lia McCord, an American teenager arrested in Bangladesh for trying to smuggle heroin. I’ve been an avid fan ever since that first time and have watched several more since.

I don’t normally watch “Reality TV” – I find programs like the BBC’s Airport rather boring – who wants to watch a bunch of frustrated tourists arguing with airport staff for half and hour?

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Banged up Abroad – it was very well made, well acted and it appeared to use the original locations (or very close to it at least). All-in-all the program seemed to put you in the shoes of that person, during that time. It seemed to invoke the feelings they would have felt, as you watch the actors in real locations, with the actual person narrating their story. The people talk about their thoughts and feelings in a way that brings the whole experience to life for the viewer. I felt the ups and downs, the sense that you would never get caught, the uneasy feeling that something was about to go wrong.

I’ve got very little patience for criminals, “Lock them up and throw away the key”, was my motto. But this T.V. series has shown things in a totally different light for me. I come away from watching each episode with a deep sense of compassion for the individuals. I mean, your heart goes out to them as you watch. You find yourself rooting for the person and thinking, “Oh no! Don’t get caught!” Each episode is a white-knuckle ride that will have you on the edge of your seat!

These people are not hardened, violent criminals – they are just normal everyday people who are just down on their luck. I suppose that’s what makes this T.V. series so hard-hitting – you feel you can relate to the people. As their story unfolds you see how, step-by-step, they were lured into the trap that got them banged-up in jail. Each person can typically pinpoint that one moment, the pivotal point, when things went horribly wrong for them. But besides that, you can see the way the person was led step-by-step towards their incarceration. Typically, stories often involve smuggling drugs out of a foreign country.

But I think what struck me the most was that all-too-familiar sense of naivety: I can totally relate to that sense of feeling that I’m right, when I’m dead wrong; or to be emphatic that nothing can go wrong when something awful is about to happen; or having an uneasy feeling about something you are about to do – but dismissing that feeling. I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve done something, only to regret it later.

Thankfully, I’ve never done anything on the same scale as these people. Nevertheless, it hammers home the point that there exists in humanity the propensity to make grave errors of judgement, which land you in a great deal of trouble. This leads one to consider what it is that makes some people make rather petty mistakes in life and for others to make some massive mistakes – perhaps just one mistake that spells doom for their finances, reputation and/or freedom.

When I watched Banged Up Abroad I could relate to that naïve sense of, “This can’t go wrong, no-one will notice, I’ll do this just one more time, I’m making a big fuss over nothing…” The only difference between the people in the documentary and me is that their naivety landed them in a lot more trouble than mine ever has. I’m grateful that I’ve been spared making such stupid mistakes, but I have made some really big mistakes myself. So why have I been spared and these people have not? It just makes me feel vulnerable that perhaps something like that could happen to me. I mean, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I was convinced I was right and nothing could go wrong – when it turned out to be wrong. I suppose that’s what makes Banged up Abroad so exciting, and nerve-wracking: there is the overwhelming sense of, “That could have happened to me!”

We all seem to rely on that inward alarm, that “buzzer” that goes off in our heart when we’re about to do something stupid. So why didn’t that “buzzer” go off in these people’s lives? Or if the alarm did sound – why, how were they able to ignore it? You could say, “Well, they knew it was wrong but they chose to go ahead and do it anyway. So it’s their fault – they’re wrong.” Well, if the difference between Heaven and Hell here on earth is all down to my mood, how I’m feeling on any particular day, then I’m in trouble!

During the conclusion of each episode, the individuals often look back and relate how the experience has changed their life. In episode 3, Jake Libbon was arrested in Mexico for selling marijuana, and then was falsely accused of shooting two police officers. Jake reflected on the way his experience has caused him to value the little things in life and to treasure each day of freedom he has now.

I was struck by something that Lia McCord said during the end of the Bangladesh episode: she said something along the lines of her not ever wanting to go through her ordeal again; but she also said that if she could, she would not necessarily avoid going through that experience either. What happened to Lia when she was young and naïve changed the course of her life, something good came out of it and she grew up very fast!

There is a great deal of opinion and controversy over the Christian topic of suffering. Some Christians baulk at the idea that God would use suffering to bring you into a closer relationship with Him. But no-one can deny the fact that it is often life’s shocks that make the greatest changes, even beneficial changes, to us.
The Divine Nature | TNB