We all have that one friend whom we may no longer talk to but we keep on our friends’ list because of the light-hearted, funny content they repost, or that friend you can always count on to tag you in the funniest memes (shout out to Viki). Well, I’m that friend that posts all the depressing and despairing news about the neglect of our environment, the grand injustice, and our questionable political policies. It’s not because I am naturally a pessimist or that I like to dwell on the broken aspects of life, I know and appreciate the healing force of positivity and encouragement, but I also know that it’s important not to gloss over the painful sides of life. If we begin to do that, we run the risk of losing sight of true suffering.
It took me quite a while to find my political voice. Whilst nowadays it seems that 14 year-olds are a lot older for their years, deciding to become vegetarian, fighting for animal rights, gender equality, or lending their voices to fellow 14 year-olds whose own may be nothing more than a muffle swallowed up by the more ‘pressing’ politico-economic factors (lets face it, politics and economics are so intertwined that this word might as well be added to the Oxford dictionary), at 14 the only causes I thought worth agonising over were my friendships– and maybe that was because all my other friends were doing just that too. I still hadn’t fully processed the meaning of justice, let alone had consciously recognised injustice in anything other than in my lamentations of ‘it’s not fair’ when I wasn’t granted the permission to go out with friends. My political voice still needed time to bud.
I’ve always been dubious about stories in which individuals attribute a significant change in their lives to that cinematic ‘pinpoint moment’, as if saying that all the events leading up to that one particular instance did not in some way contribute to the pivotal occurrence. Naturally, certain incidents will place more gravitas on one’s heart than others; for me that instance had come to pass when I was 16 years old, studying situation ethics in my Religious Studies class.
I was intrigued from our first lesson, in which we looked at the classic ‘trolley problem’ as introduced by Philippa Foot. The problem goes that there is a runaway trolley along railway tracks. Ahead the tracks divide into two, one on side there is one individual tied to the tracks and on the other track (the one the trolley is currently on) there are five people tied down– all are unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them and you cannot stop it. The only course of action you can take is to pull the lever; if you do nothing, the trolley will kill all five people, if you pull the level diverting the trolley onto the other side, you will kill one person. You’re unfortunately stuck with the responsibility of answering the question: which is the most ethical choice?
When faced with a decision like this, I can see why individuals might be scared to find, and exercise their political voices. Sometimes it seems that the safer option is just to remain silent, to not take action– at least that way no blame or troubles will come your way if you’ve done nothing. Ignorance is bliss.
Equally as easy as being ignorant is the agility with which one can hide behind a screen. You can post virtually anything you like in a comment, launch abuse, shut off your laptop or computer and forget ever thinking about the repercussions. It is precisely for this reason that it seems that it is mainly those who are demeaning that have the ‘courage’ (or rather cowardice) to post their thoughts, which are perhaps are better left unshared. The majority of the rest of us either get caught up with creating our aesthetically perfect alter-ego through photos, videos and ‘yolo’ moments, or are concerned with maintaining the status quo of a clean, professional, non-aligned mind-set that we do not lend our voices to causes which need our support.
You can argue that posting these political articles online isn’t going to make a change, it’s just words and no actions and maybe you’re right. In all honesty, I’m not being actively as helpful in real life as I would like to be at this moment in time, but this doesn’t undermine the power of awareness. When people see something repeatedly enough it begins to become normalised, if we begin to treat these injustices and events as collective ‘bad things’ we will begin to lose sight of the individual suffering and pain. Sometimes our blissfulness needs to be interrupted, because sometimes we get too comfortable with others’ suffering.
If you have an audience and a voice, no matter how small or big, use it. Use it for something other than self-gratification. Focus on the positive aspects of life, but remember that for all the good that love can do, it shouldn’t sweep aside the pain that cries for change, just because it makes us uncomfortable.
Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.