The issues we face as a city in Los Angeles: a slowly expanding but still struggling public transportation infrastructure, outdated zoning codes and the resulting excessively high rent prices and the embarrassing lack of affordable housing, the drought that has been plaguing the region for almost half a decade and our inability to make any real effort in addressing this problem…
The issues we face as a nation in the United States: race, as well as the accompanying police violence (highlighted by the recent Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown case) which seems to not have seen any real changes despite the stir that they caused nationwide, the growing inequality gap, healthcare, high incarceration rates with little long-term positive impacts on society, women’s reproductive rights and even the pay gap between genders, same-sex marriage and equality…
The issues we face as a planet: severe weather patterns and changing climate, cities and governments overwhelmed with rapid urbanization, clashes between ideologies across borders, indelible human rights crises and voices crying out but smothered or unaddressed…
The list goes on.
There are a whole multitude of problems that we are supposed to be facing, that we are supposed to be combating. None of these issues are unheard of or undiscussed; we are aware of them. We just haven’t made much headway in coming up with long-lasting solutions.
These are things that need agendas that span longer than one senatorial, one congressional, one mayoral, or one presidential term. These are issues that the public needs to care about and stay engaged with for longer than the 2 minutes it takes to upload something about it, because it’s impossible to solve them immediately. Even a billion clicks couldn’t save the world from rising sea levels, or save humanity from the hostility we breed between ourselves.
We need to start translating our opinions that we are so eager to share into actions that will for better or for worse, influence the people around us. We need to stop obsessing over the immediate results and understand that sometimes, commitment and effort over time are indispensable to solving challenges that we face as an individual or as a society.
People may call this generation self-centered, but maybe that’s not quite the right term. We haven’t lost our morals, after all, the generation before us that call us selfish are the ones that raised us.
But it is true that the changing approach to life and this new lifestyle of wanting and getting everything (an exacerbated form of consumerism culture that businesses are eager to capitalize upon), is also having an effect on how we behave, not only personally, but in civic and social ways. We are feeling the impact it is having on our relationships, politics, businesses, and on our society as a whole. The culture of immediacy, and of haves and have nots, is distancing us from the way we interact with ourselves and with society in ways that last longer than the next 15 minutes, so much so that we seem less thoughtful and empathetic. There is a countering “mindfulness” movement happening, attempting to align our minds with our breathing and return us to a slower and closer pace of being aware, but I’m not entirely sure it’s addressing the problem in the right way.
If the solution is to disconnect ourselves from technology and sit in a room and meditate while we contort our bodies into different shapes, then perhaps those yogis are getting it right.But in fact, I don’t think the solution is to turn ourselves away from technology and the problems, because that would mean that we are not evolving along with the innovations and challenges of today.
But there is great potential in where we are now. We have unprecedented access to the collective human knowledge. It’s like the saying, “two heads are better than one,” except now, we have the access to many more heads than two.
There are great advantages that we as individuals and as a society have in being able to access things immediately. The key point is that we have to regain our perspective and not become driven by these things. We have to be in control, of our wants, of our needs, of our greed. The way we interact and share information is changing, we must evolve with it, otherwise, we will be overwhelmed by the rapid changes and become swallowed into this culture of instant self gratification.
We cannot run from our problems, neither can we just talk about it.
We must ask ourselves a few elemental questions:
What is the point in being a human being and living as one? All the things that we spend so much time on now, how much meaning do they have when we die? What is going to make us truly, lastingly happy?
It is by finding our own answers to these things and living by them that will make the real difference. Almost all of us, I am sure, wish to find meaningful things, moments, and deeds in life. Is it not being meaningful and having an impact when we leave, in the things that we leave behind?
In an age where things are so easily forgotten, our tweets, our hashtags, will soon be forgotten as well. If we truly want to leave an impact on the world through the way we live and throughout our lives, we have to start by giving our thoughts and ideas time, giving our words gestures, giving our gestures weight and meaning, and giving our world and ourselves commitment and compassion.
Perhaps, it is impossible to never be distracted by the swell of information lapping at our feet, but it is absolutely possible to ride these currents out to other shores and touch the lives of the people there, as long as we do not lose sight of the horizon.