WARNING: SANCTIMONY FOLLOWS
Henry Rollins made what I thought was a legitimate point in Thornbury on Saturday night – this is a new century (one none of us are likely to leave alive) and there’s no particular reason why it has to proceed according to the mindset and rules of the last one. We’re only ten years into it – it’s young, impressionable, and our attitudes will inform what it does. And that doesn’t have to be negative. Why couldn’t the people in a few hundred years look back and say “the 21st century was the one where they finally got it together”?
And I agree. It’s not like the younger people of 1910 felt the twentieth century should or must follow the habits of 1850. Most of the things that changed for the better were unprecedented, were things that the old guard said, on the strength of the past, would never change. Could never change. This is the way things had always been done.
And those blights we still face… well, they’re not immutable laws either. Racism, prejudice – the solutions for these problems are here right now, and have been for a long time: treat others as you’d like them to treat you. (And don’t let these things slide when you hear people around you lapsing into them.) Poverty, social injustice, war – the solutions for these are much more complicated, but at the very least they have to start by overcoming this sense that they’re inevitable, and necessary. They’re not. We just say “life isn’t fair” and “that’s the way it is” to save ourselves from the effort of changing. Poverty has causes. Social injustice has causes. War has causes. They can be addressed.
So far as I can see it, the critical thing is this: every day we can choose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Nobody can change the world by themselves, but every day you make decisions that influence how things turn out, even on a minor scale. You vote. You react when political matters are discussed. You make choices about what you consume and how. Pretty much everything you do, in combination with those around you, influences what happens. Whether you intend to or not, you cannot help, as one of the billions of humans on this planet, influencing its direction just as everyone else does. The point is doing so deliberately. And at the end of each day there’s no reason why you couldn’t look back and say – well, I did my part. The direction my actions pushed the world in, even to a tiny extent, wasn’t a negative one – it was a positive one.
And of course, whether you do or not, rest assured that other people will be doing their bit to influence what happens. And they’ll often be the people with whom you most disagree, the people who want to push the world in the ways of fear and greed and hate. Don’t let them win just because you thought that only they should have an impact.
If we all realised that our choices and actions make a difference, and we can do our part to push things forward in a positive way – if we all refused to be held hostage to defeatist, lazy excuses like “it’ll never change” and “there’s nothing I can do” – then this really could be one brilliant century.