Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Information overload

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Disposable People, as much as a book about slavery can be enjoyed. My eyes were opened to the horrors of our world and reality of life outside the United States. I’m not a sheltered person and have been to countries where running water and 3 meals a day are luxuries. But I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams the conditions Bales described.

The problem with my new found knowledge is the overwhelming feeling of guilt and responsibility I now have. Reading about the sex slaves in Thailand and the children slaves in India breaks my heart and makes me want to do something to raise awareness, but it also puts a huge weight of guilt on my shoulders. Here I am, sitting in my heated dorm room using my relatively new MacBook about to exercise my right of free speech, while at this same exact moment somewhere across the world a young girl is being raped or a man is being whipped from trying to escape a batteria. Thinking about this, I suddenly get the urge to sell everything I own, donate the money to Free the Slaves, and live on the streets in order to try and understand what life is like for someone who has nothing. Of course, that’s absolutely ridiculous because what would that achieve? Feeling guilty won’t help any slave find freedom.

Well then, it’s as easy as raising awareness; but even that has problems. For one thing, there are thousands of issues in the world that need awareness: domestic violence, rape, increasing CO2 emissions, world hunger, genocide, animal and environmental conservation, and the list goes on. With all of these issues it’s overwhelming knowing which one to actually do something about. Because let’s face it, one person cannot be active in all of these issues, there simply is not enough time. You can definitely support and spread the word, but as to really doing something, really making a difference, I’m afraid we must pick and choose.

As wrong as I think slavery is and as much as it needs to be stopped, I personally pick the environment as my cause-of-choice. I feel that the state of the environment and our role in harming, as well as helping it, is of enormous importance. They way we treat the Earth has a direct affect on our quality of living, as well as the quality of living for the entire world. The scale is just too grand for me to ignore.

So I ask, what is your cause? What are you going to do something about? Not just spreading the word by printing flyers or striking up a conversation, but by really taking those steps to make a change. It’s all good and great to talk about taking action, but until something is done, it's just words.


Ashley Ladd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashley Ladd said...

I think that raising awareness for all of these ideas is very important, and agree with you that one cannot attempt to change every problem in the world. When concentrating on one problem, more focus will be put into raising awareness and hopefully a better outcome. I think that I would probably pick slavery to go with, because this book made me realize how brutal it is around the world and I would like to help this be overcome.

Paul Bendor-Samuel said...

I agree with you that there are many issues, too many for one person to focus attention on individually. I defer to Plato’s definition of justice to solve this dilemma. Each individual is good at a specific role. Each person should peruse the problem which there skill set is suited to work with. That being said there are many issues which require the same skill set, or a skill set basic, that most everyone has. I think it is important not to be weighed down by guilt. We are lucky enough to be in such a great position, and we can reach out and affect those in poorer conditions. Nothing is to be gained by putting ourselves in there positions, but rather we should try to elevate them to ours.p

Ai said...

It is probably true that the more we learn about the world and its issues, the less we are content with the state of it right now. In high school I participated in a lot of Amnesty International work and talking with older students that work for Amnesty International, they often tell me that though much work have been done to bring progress to many of the issues, there are still so many that we need to work on. I don't think we should sit here and beat ourselves up for owning things that we have. The point of reading and learning about these issues was not to make us feel guilty, but to do something to change the state of it. I also think that by focusing and promoting awareness about one issue, we could in turn help create a ripple effect and affect many other issues.

Scarlett D'Anna said...

Lee, I’ve experienced similar guilt since reading Bales’ book. I’ve justified my lack of action so far by saying “I’ve got papers to write, tests to study for, scholarships to keep, family and friends to care for, extra-curricular activities to focus on, work study to do, and let’s not forget, sanity to keep. I just don’t have time.” But you know what these really sound like? Excuses. Maybe they’re good ones, maybe they’re bad ones, but they’re excuses nonetheless. I like your suggestion that each person should choose an issue to “champion,” and I like even better Paul’s suggestion that there is a specific skill or role that everyone is best suited for. Well, I know my skill: writing (at least I hope it is, since I’m an English major). And I know the cause that tugs at my heart strings the most: the genocide in Darfur. If I can put those two things together, maybe I can make a difference.

(And by the way, Lee, I find your dedication to the environment really admirable. You’re truly determined to change things, and someone certainly needs to.)