Small Ways We Can Make The World A Better Place
21st-century living, aside from the general convenience of it all, ain’t always easy. Our brains didn’t evolve to handle the constant barrage of information we are faced with daily. From social media to the news, it’s a constant strain on our minds. And as a collective, we can all feel it.
Now add that beloved hustle culture into the equation. We are taught to work, work, and then work some more. Being burned out is admirable while stopping for some rest along the way is a waste of time. Why listen to your mind and body when you can run on fumes and still be productive? *Sarcasm alert*
A Polarised World
The world, in general, has become increasingly polarised over the last few decades too. Especially when it comes to politics. We’ve got to a point where both sides of the political spectrum interpret losing, as a literal cataclysmic event. And this isn’t a healthy place for anyone to dwell in for long.
But there is so much more about the human condition that connects us than divides us. We are all humans trying to make our way in this often scary world. The more we relate to each other personally, rather than dehumanising each other for a quick ‘gotcha moment’ win, the better.
And Then The C Bomb Dropped
All of this was all happening before the pandemic. And then the C bomb dropped adding more fuel to the fire. Regardless of whether you feel lockdowns are an appropriate course of action or a draconian overreach of power, they are taking a toll on us all mentally, physically and spiritually.
In a context like this, many of us are asking what we can do personally to make the world a better place. We can’t develop cures or change geopolitics. But we can make decisions in our own lives to improve things considerably for our communities. Here are a few suggestions.
Talk Politics Productively
As the adage goes, don’t talk about religion, money, or politics. However, what if we could engage in meaningful exchanges with people who hold different positions to our own? AND, still, shake hands at the end of a discussion? Civil discourse has commonly been the barometer of ‘civil’ society.
Alas, politics has become increasingly polarised, leading to moderates often being pushed out of the conversation, while the extremes on both sides seem to dominate it. For a meaningful, measured and fruitful dialogue, this does not make. As such, having a conversation of substance with the people around you is more challenging than ever.
The dialectic is out of control, with people intentionally rebutting with the least charitable misrepresentation of their opponent’s argument, rather than with solid reasoning, and catastrophising the societal outcomes of someone holding an alternative opinion. Anyone who has undergone cognitive behavioural therapy (no shame, I have!) knows this all runs counter to CBT’s underpinnings.
Censorship Hurts Us All
In times like this, the best approach is to return to our philosophical roots and traditions. We need to think more carefully and fundamentally about issues, instead of attacking each other and trying to censor one another. Because ultimately, censorship hurts us all. The only people shutting down dialogue really benefits are those far more prosperous and powerful than you or me.
“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
-Justice Louis Brandeis
Talking politics productively means trying to understand the other person’s fears and point of view. Mostly, you’ll discover that people hold the positions they do because they’re scared of something. Have had different experiences, or read other information; not because they’re trying to make your life a misery. When holding conversations about politics, it should be less about ‘winning’, and more focused on cultivating understanding, and bridging the divide.
Support Your Local Community
Academics such as Adam Elliott-Cooper at the University of Greenwich talk a lot about the need for communities to find ways to work together. He focuses on institutions’ role in building stronger relationships that treat everyone with an equal level of respect.
Supporting your local community is something that everyone can do, and it will likely have more impact on your everyday life than anything happening at a national level. Members of a community have more of a handle on what the people living there need most.
Your time could be spent wisely by handing out soup at the soup kitchen or taking a more active role in local social impact initiatives. Whatever it is, there are plenty of opportunities out there to improve things. The world improves when we start by focusing on our communities first and reach out from there.
Spend More Wisely
On the theme of starting local, you might have noticed an increased number of businesses struggling amid the pandemic related lockdowns. While many companies are struggling, larger outfits often have the resources to weather these severe storms. Meanwhile, smaller local ones are more likely to shut down.
Before you head to an established eCommerce trader for the convenience, consider a local retailer who has had to adapt to continue trading during storm C-word. Times are hard for everyone, but if you do happen to have some spare cash, order a takeaway from your favourite local restaurant. Globally, the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic.
Also, some of your friends or family might have used the extra time they’ve had due to stay at home orders to set up a new business venture. Please support them! We need to encourage not discourage this kind of entrepreneurial activity, and they will appreciate your business a lot more than larger corporations.
Seek Out Worthy Causes
You can also start seeking out worthy causes and become a part of something bigger than you are. You don’t have to change the entire world to make it a better place. Like with many things, “’Inch by inch, it’s all a cinch, by the yard, it’s hard.”
Don’t get overwhelmed by the scale of the world’s problems; even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference to someone else. Something as simple as contacting a lonely older person, sending flowers to a struggling friend, or donating time to a worthy charity can tremendously improve people’s quality of life and the community.
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