How to address society's problems instead of being driven to the point of inaction.
Freelance writer for The Run USA, Maggie Drew.
Perhaps one of the greatest issues facing our society today is apathy. Apathy is the lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern for something. “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings,” Hellen Keller once said.
I think one of the main reasons apathy has taken such a prevalent hold on today’ s society is because of the increased awareness of issues and the pure fact that there are too many things to care about. Whether it’s climate change, immigration reform, gender equality, you name it. All of these issues matter and all need to see some serious change. However, these issues can leave the average person feeling angry and powerless as if they can't do anything to see the world change. Therefore, most choose to ignore it or choose to not care because caring hurts too much.
The term “ignorance is bliss” sums this up pretty well. I find myself turning off the news or social media more often than not because it hurts too much to watch. Other times, I become completely numb to situations. People are so overwhelmed by the vast number of issues going on in the world that they don't even know how to start. Numerous individuals have perhaps adopted the mindset of fatalism—the belief that the world is already beyond redeeming, so “Why bother trying to change anything?”
I once read an article about this same issue and it said something that really stuck with me. It said, “The rest of us are mostly either inspired into action or depressed into inaction.” I sometimes find myself falling into the latter option. I tell myself, “I’m just one person, I can't fix this.” Which is inherently true but in a society where everyone is saying that, no change will happen.
So what is the solution? How do we see change in a society when most people are too numb to be put into action? I think there is power in choosing your battles. Deciding what you are going to ignore, support and what you are going to fight for. As humans, we can't fight for every issue in the world because we would reach total burn out and fail to actually make any improvements within society. We all should look within ourselves to figure out what issues we care about most and what we can do to help.
Sometimes we learn to make ourselves care. I did this in 2019 when I went to volunteer abroad in Greece. I went with a group of students from WMU to work with one of the worst refugee crises in the world. Did you know that there was a terrible refugee crisis in Greece? I didn't either until I signed onto the study abroad. When I went there, so much changed for me. I was living in a completely new country and witnessing one of the saddest things I have ever experienced.
When I say these people had nothing, they had nothing. The camp the refugees had to stay in is largely considered one of the worst camps on the planet. “Hell on earth” is basically its second name, and it deserves that title. I got to teach the people how to swim and I took care of the kids while the parents took english classes at community centers that people made for the refugees.
I often felt like I was putting a bandaid on a much bigger wound, but then I remembered that if this is all that I can do to help, I am going to do it. The trip was almost two years ago, and I still think about those people I met at the camp often. I can't help but to think about how I am able to come home to the comforts of my life in America while those people are still there with nothing. Me being in Greece is what made me care. If I never went on the trip, I guarantee I would try to ignore the fact that those people were suffering. Now that I met them, I remember their names, saw their smiles as they learned how to swim and will never forget my experience.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” poet and writer Maya Angelou once said. This quote struck me in regards to this trip. I might forget conversations I had with people or even the things I did while I was there, but I will never forget the joy, pain, and heartbreak that being with those people caused me.
I don't say all of this to say that you should just go travel places with terrible conditions and make yourself care. But what I am saying is get out there! Go meet the people who are hurting, go hear their stories, and do this enough to hopefully spring anyone into action. I think that we live in a country where we are really good at ignoring things we don't care about, or things we don't want to care about. It is easy to fall into the mindset of “well I’m not x,y, or z so I don't need to worry,” or “that doesn't affect my life so I don't really need to care,” and that is why we can often find ourselves stuck at a dead stop.
Not fighting for an issue doesn't mean that you don't care. There are certain issues that I believe everyone needs to care about and do their part to fix. We all have a role in bettering our country for the next generation. I also believe we all have certain things we are meant to fight for. Some people may feel a heavy urge in their heart to better one issue while someone feels the same way for a completely different issue. Neither person is less than or not a good person for not outwardly fighting for a certain issue. I believe everyone can choose their battles by dividing and conquering to then hopefully unite and conquer. The encouragement I leave you with is this: it’s okay to be overwhelmed by it all, but don't let that drive you to inaction.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” said Martin Luther King Jr. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Follow Maggie on twitter: @maggiedrewnews
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