It has been a scary 48 hours. The Sydney siege, the U.S racial tensions, a fatal stabbing happening so close to home, we need to stop denying the fact that the world is, and has always been a petrifying place to be. However despite the incidences, the pain and the anxieties that has possibly been created from these terrifying events has spurned a unity. Such a unity has been constantly been the impetus of comments such as “my faith in my humanity is restored” or “I can’t believe it, this is incredible”.
One thing about that unity strikes me as odd. The fact that it was “unexpected”. Have we, as a world become so jaded that basic civility and courtesy had faded from our expectations? I’m not complaining, the #illridewithyou campaign has had immense momentum, reception and I’m glad that people are finally recognising the torturous, debilitating and real face of racism and prejudice against innocent people who differ in belief, appearance and the status quo. However the concern I have is that is will this unity contribute to a stronger connectivity that will last? Internet sensations are ephemeral in nature and often trivialize wider and deep-rooted social issues. And although they are distributed in such a way that no other medium can, they can be based on intentions as superficial such as the instant gratification received when given attention and then disposed of until another fad of social awareness is brought upon. Discarded like the remains of world issues that are disguised in a small corner, where the onus of the responsible media and journalism is compromised by flagrant famewhoring. Whether it be plastering celebrity news such as Lindsay Lohan’s latest drug binge and wardrobe malfunction or the perpetuation of fear and reinforcing prejudices for sales and attention.
We need to be careful we as people, when engaging with media that we don’t lull ourselves into high authority while engaging in slacktivism. Sure the attention and awareness is spread rapidly, but the message is lost when both ideology and action are not put into some degree of attention and focus. The millions of hashtags of a social cause means very little when they are incongruent and innocuous to the people who post them. A large portion of critical meaning is lost when the intention is as facile as getting the most “thumbs up” or favourites. The prejudice, inhumanity and hardships people face are incredibly real. The Sydney Siege may very well be the catalyst of wider discrimination against the Islamic community who are unfairly put under fire by the actions of one. And such a dangerous paradigm shift could exacerbate already existing issues that others similarly face. These issues don’t go away just because you wear a T-Shirt or type a hashtag. Because lets face it, who’s still talking about ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge now?
The mass cynicism coupled with the temporary state of concern for real issues is a dangerous combination. For it only scratches the surface that purportedly reveals itself as a solution and an ends to a problem. Real unity comes with the changes of attitudes, tangible actions that produce “real” solutions and definitely a commitment not fueled by the basic, primitive gratification earned by garnering attention but with a commitment that lasts longer than the attention span of a vine video. In order for change to happen, you have to be committed to feel the blows of failure and be in all the way to finally real what seemed to be impossible successes. Don’t jump off after just getting on the first step, if you really care, keep going and see it through.
And although I may seem cynical by being critical, I’m an eternal optimist who believe that Martin Luther King’s dream isn’t impossible, the veracity of Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou’s wisdom of happiness or my idol, Abraham Lincoln whose actions were the conception of a unity, although troubled was a massive step towards the goal of equality.
At the end of the day, we’re all human. Put your guns down, lay down your beliefs and just look at the world, at how marvelous it actually is. That marvel, the beauty doesn’t just sporadically appear, it appears because of what potential you have in contributing to that. Violence is a choice, but peace is as well. If we made the right ones, maybe the dreams of the wise ones who have gone before us can be realized. The dream of a world where our children can look at the world and see positive opportunity, not violence. That regardless of what they look like, wherever their passions may lie, the beliefs they may have or whoever they choose to love will not be condemned, but be embraced by the others who share their future.
I believe it can happen.