It is easy, so very easy, to look around our world and be pessimistic. Short sighted industrialists threaten our well-being. Angry taxpayers want to take their frustration out on the most vulnerable in our society while being convinced by those who truly abuse them that said abuse is good for them. Our political process seems rigged. Far too many of us still give into, or suffer from, bigotry. So I understand, to a degree, when people espouse the notion that we cannot fix what ails the world. I disagree, entirely, but I understand.
That does not mean we should not try though. If we do nothing, if we sit back and say “it cannot be done” you are complicit in the crimes being committed against your fellow-man. Is that harsh? Maybe, but it is also true. If you have any chance to reduce the amount of suffering in the world you have an obligation to do so. I am not saying everyone has the duty to spend every breath worrying over these matters, or volunteer time or money, but in a system where you are allowed to have voice, when you have elected employees who are, at least ostensibly, accountable to you, and you have the opportunity to at least do a little something. You can remind those employees who they are supposed to be working for, and you can let them know you will be watching them.
The naysayers can walk through their political ennui all they want, they can prophesy doom, and complain about “the man” and how he holds us all down and it is impossible to push him off. Some of these people cannot help themselves. Others like things the way they are. They don’t necessarily like that people are suffering, but they enjoy a safe level of comfort in the current system and do not want to risk that. Some are afraid of any real change. The familiar is awful enticing. Most do not think things will ever change.
The thing is they have been proven wrong. Things have changed. Yes there is still bigotry, greed, anger, hatred, selfishness, and violence. Those will always be part of the human condition, or at least they will be for some time. Those forces though, our baser instincts, have been slowly brought under control. You may not want to believe it, but just look at human history. For all the suffering created by the systems we have put in place since the Industrial Age, for all the threats capitalism has created, for all the wars, wars of a scope our ancestors would never imagine, we have changed for the better.
Two hundred years ago it was a given that women were inferior to men. Two hundred years ago it was morally acceptable for one man to own another. Over the course of these past two centuries we have seen atrocities committed in the name of racial superiority, genocide visited on the black and red man, and others, yet in that time we have come to accept that genocide is unacceptable. Two hundred years ago the various races of man, in particular the white man, had no trouble seeing other races as vermin to be exterminated. That is not the case, as a whole, any more.
There is so very much hurt left in the world, I know this. That is why I get involved (beyond just this, because if this were all I did, it would be self-gratifying bs.) Still, we have come farther in the past two centuries, and not just in any one culture or corner of the human condition, than we have in the 10,000 years of human history that preceded them. There is work to be done, to be certain, but it can be done.
Which is all the more reason to do it. We are still a long way off from the finish line, but it is in sight, clearer than ever before. We probably will not reach it in my life time, ,or my nephews’ and nieces’ life time, but with work, we can maybe reach it in their children’s’ lives.More of us are thinking of how we benefit from others’ oppression and want to end it. More of us are learning that our interest is served by the interest of others. More of us genuinely care about our fellow-man than ever before. It is hokey, perhaps, but the effort is worth knowing we can reach the end. We are so close, so very much closer than we realize, and all it takes to reach it is to keep the momentum going, together.