HOLEY: People must not be complacent with regard to world’s vices
Opinions Column: The Breaking Point
Only a week ago you could have found someone complaining about the terrible weather and the complete lack of preparedness surrounding it. My father spent 6 hours stuck on the road for what should have been a 20-minute drive. He was furious about it all. People went online to complain about buses getting into accidents and commuters having to traverse dangerous roads just so they would not have to miss class. Drivers across the state were angry with the government and students across campus were angry with Rutgers because they felt let down by institutions responsible for their safety and convenience. People asked why classes were not canceled. People asked why the roads were not ready for the storm.
In the end, although, very little of the emotional energy spent will have any real meaning, no one is going to be held responsible for it all because no one is willing to put in the energy to hold people accountable. Humans just like to complain without any sort of significant action. It is one of the most perplexing aspects of human nature: why do people spend so much time being angry and complaining only to do absolutely nothing about it?
Of course, this phenomenon can be observed concerning more than just the feeling of anger. We live in a world of pervasive suffering and one emotion alone is not enough to bear the full weight of our experiences. Our sadness is, more often than not, equally as fruitless. Us privileged members of Western society look upon the rest of the world and we see brutality, cruelty and desperation, and yet we do nothing about it. The most we can be bothered to do is share a post on social media about how people are starving and dying in Africa while we go out to buy a new pair of shoes or the latest device we do not really need. But certainly we care about the people being slaughtered in concentration camps in North Korea, we just will not do anything about it.
I have come to the radical conclusion that, perhaps, the people around the world fighting every day for their own survival do not actually care about our feelings of sadness. I think they would instead be grateful for any shred of practical support — monetary aid, volunteer work, food donations, etc. — that would actually affect their lives in a positive, productive manner. We are somehow too inconvenienced, though, to do anything of the sort. We are content with spending time feeling angry and sad, but we are unwilling to take action that would not only improve the world but would probably make us feel better.
This is the paradox of our human emotions — the contradictory nature of us feeling so passionately yet taking no action. We certainly do care, but we act the same as if we did not. It is so incredibly unfortunate that we are often left unmotivated, because during those times when we are inspired enough to act, we are truly capable of greatness. Humanity has accomplished so much despite our limited propensity for altruistic undertakings. There are even a few people who seemingly defy our nature and live their lives in the service of others. Whenever we realize the goodness that humanity is capable of, we are finally able to feel a moment of relief in this world of tragedy.
Charity may not reward us with physical luxuries but instead it grants us the emotional satisfaction we desperately crave deep inside of ourselves. There is a certain sense of happiness, unique in its nature, about knowing that you contributed something positive and meaningful to the world. Finally you could say that your emotions had purpose, that you took action and that the world was changed for the better because you wanted it to be that way — because your feelings really meant something.
For the sake of our fellow people across Earth and ourselves, let us defy our human nature to sit back and allow the malevolent forces of the world to prevail. Let us take up a sense of responsibility in the face of negligence and let us take up a sense of mercy in a world of cruelty. It is important to be the light you wish to see within the darkness. Bring about the change you wish to see throughout the world. Prove to the universe that your thoughts and emotions really do matter because you chose to act upon them.
Michael Holey is a School of Arts and Sciences junior interested in political science. His column, "The Breaking Point," runs on alternate Mondays.
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