Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Post from The Parallel World: "A Theory of Change 2.0—The Online Edition"

Occasionally, I will repost articles from other blogs in their entirety.  My first repost comes from a blog by NYU student James Skinner entitled "The Parallel World: Unity Forward to a Sustainable Future."  You can find his blog here:  Enjoy!

A Theory of Change 2.0—The Online Edition

Many of us live in a world that is flooded by advertisements telling us how to waste our money and brain cells. I hope to change that. For a while now I’ve been flooding my poor facebook friends’ news feeds with ways for them to get involved in making a positive difference in our world. While it would give me great relief and satisfaction to say that the theory behind this is that if even just one person pays attention to what I’m posting and acts on it then my efforts are having their desired effect, unfortunately this is not the case.

Many of us are indeed committed to bettering communities around the world. Nevertheless I fear that this commitment must be multiplied both in magnitude and in numbers if we are to truly be successful.The influence of technology in nearly every aspect of our globalized community is obvious. We now have access to enormous amounts of information and enormous creative capabilities like never before. With these tremendous tools at our fingertips it is our responsibility to ensure that the selfless message of making a positive difference in the world is spread just as rapidly and with just as high an impact as the message of inherently selfish consumerism. Ultimately we must merge the two into one so that we as consumers in a capitalist market that is beyond any foreseeable point of return buy only products that ensure other human beings’ wellbeing just as much as they satisfy our own desires to consume. In other words we must be selfishly selfless. We are far from reaching that point of equilibrium.

Regardless of the TV channel we may favorite, my personal experience buying luxury goods in the shopping malls of Quito, outside of which the poorest of the poor children beg for spare change or a scrap of food from drivers in SUVs entering the heavily-guarded parking decks, suggests that we may in fact be moving in the direction opposite to that of socially responsible consumerism. In Accra the sights are very much the same. In Beijing I experienced no difference. And those of us who think things are better here in the States, or even in the somewhat more progressive European continent, are very much mistaken. While bars are filled with energetic young people spending money right and left on a night they won’t remember, outside a homeless woman scrounges for food in the overflowing trashcans. Children lack medical care. Schools are falling apart. Racist laws are passed in the year 2010 and yet, we do what exactly to change it? We vote in November and then watch our politicians bicker back and forth maybe getting one or two of their promises passed. But even those “successes” are far from what we hoped.

No one can be perfect. But everyone can try harder. We must act on the information that we are so privileged to have. If this means tutoring children to fill in the gaps in the education system, then that is what we must do. If it means working in a food bank to ensure that everyone has something healthy to eat, then that is what we must do. If it means organizing ourselves in order to profoundly and positively rearrange the system that perpetuates so many injustices, then that is what we must do. I know countless people who are doing each of these things and more. With them and my own experiences in mind I’ve come to believe that the problems in the world do not have to do with people’s compassion, but rather with the messages we see.

So long as the airwaves and the news feeds are filled with information on the hottest purse and shoe combo or the trendiest clubs, then this will be the norm by which we judge society. All of us who express our compassion through our actions will be outside of the status quo. We will be the exceptions. That is why we must work fervently to flood the mediasphere with the compassion that motivates us to try harder everyday. We must make that compassion the status quo. This is the change that is spoken of so ethereally by politicians and idealists alike. Practically, however, it will only ever come about if we use the resources that we have so that we, as individuals, one after another embody the change.

We must broadcast our compassion everyway that we know how.One post at a time. We’re all connected online and so we will all see what’s going on. We’ll all see the ways we can take part in getting medical care to communities off of the grid. We’ll all see the ways that we can help get kids into school, and to stay there too. If we want it to be, this message of compassion will be all that we see. We can make it the one and only message in our society. We can tell ourselves to take care of one another. The network through which to do this is right there every time we enter our email and password.What is holding us back from making the change now?

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