If you pick up a newspaper or, what is more likely nowadays, scan news sites on your computer or smartphone, generally you are left with a feeling that there is a higher percentage of bad news than good news. Europe is currently at ends with each other over the refugee crisis, America is facing new tragedies over its gun laws, and as per usual British tabloids are exaggerating stories about why families on benefits are nothing but scroungers of the nation.
So perhaps it is unsurprising why so many people are not reading the news. They say things like “I find it too depressing”, or they have given up caring about their country and its current affairs because “the country is fucked up”, or “if you ask me, this country has had it”.
Except personally I find this attitude irritating beyond belief. It encourages a notion of ignorance, and so when people to pay attention to the news they are easily taken in by a sensationalist headline and jump on either the supportive or hostile bandwagon with little more than a few general facts to support their opinion. Or even worse, they do not care at all what is happening in their country or the world quite simply because it is not affecting them. A voice of the British left wing, Owen Jones, has called for the refugees to be thought of as the humans they are, not as statistics. And I have read about journalists in Brazil brutally murdered for criticizing the government, yet, correct me if I’m wrong, but I have not heard about a national outcry for justice, and for freedom of speech to be protected. I am a huge advocate of human rights, and a proud member of Amnesty International, and I am constantly reading about how human rights are exploited on numerous levels. But around me I see very little concern, and even less being done, simply because it isn’t happening on our own back doors.
It seems the length people are willing to go to show their support or concern for a specific cause is a quick post on social media: sometimes a link, sometimes a profile picture update. Now, I am in full support of using simple social media techniques to raise awareness and encourage social concern. The ‘No Make Up Selfie’ seemed to start out as a vanity project, but thankfully people started questioning its use, and instead of a simple selfie people donated in the masses to breast cancer research, and even spread photos of how to check for signs of breast cancer. But more often than not, it is hardly used for productive means. People scroll past posts that provide information and calls to raise awareness, and posting a picture appears to be satisfactory enough for many to display their support for a cause, despite its little real effect. On the other hand, the incredibly well-known Humans of New York blog does demonstrate how a simple photo and caption can create overwhelming waves of empathy, and has led to many charitable causes emerging for featured individuals.
The key word: empathy. In my opinion it is not felt or encourage enough among the human race, and yet it is what has made us who we are: it helps us connect and is what makes our loved ones become loved, makes us cherish and understand art, and prevents us from becoming sociopaths. Yet if something is not happening to us, we fail to understand why it is horrific it is happening to someone else. The majority of us are lucky to not all have to experience hate crimes, natural disasters, or government corruption that goes beyond expenses scandals. But just because we don’t experience all those things first hand, does not mean they should be experienced by anyone, or that we should stand to one side and not do anything about it.
But apathy is also formed from a sense of disillusionment. People have no faith in the world, or a country that has “had it”. People have tried to make change happen, but rarely witness the results. They believe wars will always occur, inequality will always exist, and politicians will always only help themselves. But does this mean we should give up, and let apathy win? Only give concern to ourselves and immediate social circle? Ignore the news and only read lighthearted Buzzfeed articles, as fun as they can be? I have taken part in demonstrations, signed petitions, donated money, emailed politicians and more for various causes. Is it always met with success? Of course not, but I will keep trying to help causes I support because it is better than just shaking my head and tutting. I would recommend, if you have not, finding a charity you support- whether its for the environment, a medical condition, or to support humanitarian aid etc. Buy a membership, and keep up to date with their campaigns, their fundraising and their news. It’s a small step but the more people who did this, the more active and socially conscious we all become. The only way to see change is to keep trying, rather than just sitting on our hands or burying our heads in the sand.
I felt like finishing this rant off with a favourite song of mine. To me Frank Turner sums up in this song perfectly how disillusionment is easy to sink into, but that its better to continue with undefeated optimism.