People are good, but the world compels them to be otherwise

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

 – Martin Luther King Jr.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

 – Sir Winston Churchill

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.

 – Bertrand Russell

Are people fundamentally good? I’d like to think so. But if that’s true, why is it that from a population of around 7 billion relatively so few donate their resources, and especially their time and skills, to help those who aren’t lucky enough to be born, by sheer happenstance, into privilege and opportunity? For me, the answer isn’t that people are inherently immoral or callous. There’s too much evidence to the contrary for that, which ranges from everyday acts of random kindness, to great acts of uncommon charity; not even to mention that the notion of what is ‘moral’ appears to be an intrinsic feature of human nature. Rather, the answer lies, I think, with two unfortunate realities.

First, throughout history, including the present, most people have needed to slave and toil for much of their lives simply to survive, thus seriously limiting their ability and inclination to think about the plights of others and take steps to help improve them. And second, for people interested in donating themselves to a cause, it’s never been particularly easy to find one that speaks to each individual, even in today’s sophisticated, globalized world. This, I believe, is because hardships tend to go hand in hand with poverty and marginalization, meaning people’s grievances are suppressed from worldwide view, making it difficult, if not impossible, for their travails to reach and pique the interest of the many people who might become involved if they were aware of the situations.

Therefore, in rousing support for worthy causes, the chief obstacles we face, it appears to me, are that people are either unable to help due to the multiplying demands and responsibilities of an ever-hastening world, or they’re simply unaware of the opportunities available when they’re in positions to pursue them. What, then, can we do to change this situation for the sake of the people, the victims of circumstance and misfortune, who need and deserve our support? It seems to me that both can be rectified, though the first is a more complicated discussion than there’s space for now. However, the second, removing the obscurity in which human suffering is shrouded, has, I think, a comparatively simpler and easier solution.

As I see it, the issue is threefold. One, those who suffer fail to penetrate and utilize significant media to make their realities known, though a candid discussion would scarcely place the blame for this on the victims being repressed and marginalized. Two, the media themselves show, perhaps, occasional interest in people’s suffering, but typically only some people, only when it’s diabolical or genocidal enough to draw media attention, and only when the media’s home states don’t have a hand or vested interest in the situations which might be unearthed or undermined by investigation and mainstream publicity. And three, the various publics in countries around the world, leaving aside the people too ensnared by demands and responsibilities to become involved, largely don’t seek out situations in which, if they were aware, they’d be keen to participate. Without discussing ethical responsibility, these are three components of the one problem, each with their own solution.

For the victims who can’t broadcast the dangers and poverty by which they’re beset, the solution’s to provide them with the means they presently lack. This requires steady donations of resources and personnel to gradually build up a base from which they can make their situations known and hopefully penetrate the media that’re normally beyond their reach. For the mainstream media which, in truth, give quite narrow coverage of human suffering for the publics they are supposed to inform, the solution’s to embrace the fact that they’re beholden to those publics, their customers, and for those publics to demand that the media adequately report the many injustices around the world which, I choose to believe, interest most people. While this, of course, requires a great deal of arduous, grassroots organization to mobilize public opinion so that it can influence the large corporations which mainstream media have become, we now live in a time, thanks to advanced social media, online petitions and lobbyist groups, and good old-fashioned community organization, when such tasks have never been easier, though no doubt still difficult. In the end, it seems self-evident that undertaking the task, regardless of its difficulty, would certainly be worth the successes it achieves. And for the world’s publics, good people with decent intentions, the solution’s for individuals and groups to keep apprised of dire situations, spreading information within their available networks, and for them also to ensure that the two genuine solutions above aren’t forgotten or neglected by those with the means and the good nature to support them.

As with life in general, few worthwhile tasks are easily accomplished. But if people are indeed fundamentally good, and if we can harness that goodness to address injustice in the ways described, and the many others I cannot now imagine, in time, great changes are doubtless assured.


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