What’s wrong with an ideal world?

An opportunity in waiting

I recently turned 35. Some people in my position might have thought to themselves “from here it’s downhill to 40", but I choose to think about it differently. I’m just getting started.

Over the last 12 months I’ve seen the world change, politically, socially, environmentally, and economically. I’ve followed these narratives closely. I’m fortunate enough to do so because I live in a country where I’m free from the influence traditional media. I’m not a native speaker and this affords me the opportunity of tuning out of the popular narrative, something I found to be a problem in my home country. I have the freedom to choose the information I digest, and most importantly I have the freedom to come to my own conclusions. My interest in the world has led me to question everything I read, see or hear. Not in a sceptical or cynical fashion, but rather like a detective who’s looking to get to the ultimate truth of why things are the way they are. I do this because I’m a self confessed idealist, someone who wants to fix the world’s problems one step at a time.

This leads me to my first problem. What am I doing about my desire to make the world a better place? The short answer is not a great deal. Sure, I read a lot and I talk a lot to anyone who will listen but the fact of the matter is, I like many others I know, feel like we’re very short on actions. Why is this? Well, part of the reason I’m putting these ideas into words is because I feel like words might be a good place to start. A good friend of mine recently wrote this article in an attempt to explain his thoughts on why our generation feels lost when it comes to tackling the important issues affecting the world today. When I speak to friends it’s crystal clear that the majority of our generation is perhaps more aware than any, that the world we live in is not the way we want it to be. So what do we do?

In attempt to understand what others think I decided to gather a group of friends and start talking. I quickly realised, as they did, that talking about things like politics, the environment, economics and war is not something that we do very often. That serious discussion is seriously lacking in our every day lives. My friends and I are often so caught up in work, relationships and the day to day that we’ve forgotten to make time to just sit and talk. It was through sitting and talking, with a glass of wine or two to help move things along, that we all realised that we have the capacity, the skills and the knowledge to make a difference and we all see our ideal world pretty much the same way. Free from war, free from poverty, free from persecution and prejudice and the kind of place where everyone is afforded the kind of opportunities my friends and I have had. What we’re lacking is a willingness to take risks, recognise that the problems in our world are our collective responsibility and turn our solutions to these problems into actions.

History has shown, through both the good and bad, that when someone takes a stand, organises and spreads a message, others will follow. Those who’ve felt disconnected and disenfranchised immediately wake up and realise there are others that think like they do. We now live in the age of the Internet where connecting and organising ourselves is easier than it’s ever been. We are globally connected. However, this fact seems to be lost on many people every time a new problem surfaces. Many people immediately default to “well what can I do”?

Who remembers Kony 2012? Whether you agree or disagree with what the organisers were trying to achieve, their campaign was a textbook example of how to use the web to mobilise people behind a cause in huge numbers, on a global level. Thanks to tools like Google Trends and data visualisation we can see, on a level never before possible, human response to a call to arms to tackle issues like ALS for example. What’s happening in Hong Kong right now is yet another example of people organising themselves to fight, peacefully, for the fundamental right to a democratically elected government.

With all this in mind I’m left with a sense that our potential to fix what we see as problems in the world is not a pipe dream. It’s realistic and its achievable. We have the technology, we have the knowledge, we have the skills and we’re not short on ideas, but do we have the will? The only way to be sure is for us all to get together and start talking. Not talking for the sake of talking, but talking with a clear outcome in mind and a set of steps to get there. We need to start organising, we need to start getting the message out and most of all we need to leave our comfort zones, away from worries about where our next pay check will come from, and know that we can rely on each other whatever happens, because we’re all in this together.

Sure, that sounds like hollow political rhetoric to some, “we’ve heard it all before” some might say, but for me and many others like me, this is where we’re starting from. There are also those who choose not to think about things like ISIS, the influence of money in politics or the militarisation of the US police and say things like “if I think about this it makes my life more complicated, it brings me down”. If we’re going to change things, we’re going to need to do a better job of convincing these people that they have an interest in our world and they have the power to make a difference.

Our generation is waiting in the wings to take over from our predecessors. We all know what a bad job they’ve done. The financial crisis, the wars in the Middle East, global warming, rampant inequality. It’s time for us to stop complaining and time for us to stand up and be recognised. If we want the world to change we’re the ones who are going to have to do it.

It’s time to get started.

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