Hindsight is twenty-twenty, or so I’m told. Looking back on the great tragedies in history, the most destructive wars, and the widespread pain and suffering, it is easy to say “Someone should have acted,” or “If they had only done this or that, things might have been different.” If it is so easy to identify where our forefathers made their mistakes, why is it that the water seems so murky in our own lifetime? Why is it that when we see starving humans, or senseless killings, or mass hatred, that we are mysteriously silent? Why are we so concerned with the laziness and stupidity of those who came before, but we give little to no thought to our own?
Being human is diametrically opposed to being apathetic to the plight of our fellow homo sapiens. If we flip through those same history books that contain the travesties from earlier, we will find great and inspiring things; tales of kindness, of brotherhood, and of incredible feats accomplished when men and women came together, put aside their differences, and set their minds to truly monumental tasks. These are true phenomena; things we can watch, study, and admire. These are things we can learn from.
When people come together in the spirit of humanity, when they gather under the banner of improving the lives of others, wonderful things happen. The potential of mankind is unlocked, and there is no limit to the greatness we can achieve. However, for as long as people have been documenting their lives, there has been one massive roadblock, and that is apathy. People simply don’t care about those around them. Oh, sure, there is a select group of people that they care about, the “special” ones that they choose to invest in, but for the most part, our thoughts on everyone else can be summed up in two words: fuck ’em.
Where is the compassion? Oh, someone else will care. It’s not my problem. It’s not my responsibility. I’m just one person, there’s no way I can change things. That’s both true and complete bullshit at the same time. You know why? Because when one person thinks that way, it’s a shame. When millions upon millions of people think that way, it’s downright embarrassing as a species.
True, most of the time, one person cannot make a marked difference in the grand scheme of things. But, and this might shock some of you, there’s a whole world out there, and you have seen practically none of it. There are billions of people on this stupid rock we call Earth, and they all breathe the same air. I bet if you were in some sort of danger, you’d want someone to come to your aid. Would you care if one person came to help you, or if it was just one? Probably not. As long as the job was taken care of, your savior could be anyone at all.
Okay, I’m getting slightly off topic here. Time to focus. Back to you, back to what we can do. One person may not be able to make a big difference, but we never do our best work as individuals anyway. Our greatest accomplishments are group efforts. One ant can gather a few crumbs of bread, but an army of ants can gather enough food to feed the entire colony. One grain of sand is insignificant, but no beach is made up of one grain of sand. And at the risk of causing some sort of analogy-diabetes, every machine is greater than the sum of its parts.
If everyone thought about the good of others, this world would be a much better place. Now, I know that such a utopia is a statistical impossibility, but utopian ideals are meant to inspire us to be our best, to teach us to strive for excellence. If enough people aim for their best, the downfalls of the many can be overcome by the efforts of the few. Every revolution begins with a brave few facing down the strength of the reigning power.
It is easy to bemoan the evils of the tyrant, but it is the responsibility of all free men to stand for what is right and just. It is easy to say that something must be done, but it falls on those who see the need for change to cause it. What good is it to know what is right, if those who know what is right and good do nothing. Perhaps the greatest evil is not performing horrible acts, but seeing them, having the ability to act out against them, and to do nothing.
I turn my gaze inward.
My voice will not be heard by many, if any at all. My abilities fall short of world-changing. However, to remain silent and do nothing is quite possibly the worst thing I could do. To live my life as if it does not affect any others is to adopt an incredibly arrogant and apathetic worldview. If I see someone in need, and I walk by without a second thought, I am potentially the most evil man to ever live. If I see injustice and do not raise my voice, I become an active part in the growth of said injustice. If I treat my own countrymen as if they do not exist when I walk by them, I am involved in the dehumanization of society.
Understandably, not every person can be helped, and I would look like a maniac if I stopped and shook the hands of every person I passed on the street. Or would I? What would happen if I greeted every person I met as if they were an old friend? What if I interacted with every human being I came across as if they were, you know, human? I suppose the world will never know, because I am a selfish, narcissistic prick. But what if…?
The greatest accomplishments in history are built on that question. What if a country were born under the assumption that all men are created equal? What if one woman in Calcutta took care of the poor and sick as if they were her own children? What if a nihilistic kid with a blog pulled his head out of his ass and truly believed he could make a difference? Well, no one can say unless those things happen. The potential for positive change is infinite.
If we set aside our jaded view of this world and had a little faith in one another, perhaps things could be better. The potential for disappointment is grand, admittedly, but what if? What if history is simply waiting on one pebble to strike the water? What if the ripples from one life investing in humanity could ultimately change our species forever? The likelihood is slim, but the good guy is always the underdog; and everybody loves a good underdog story.