View this post on Instagram
Our threshold for pain has shifted drastically.
Those of us born after the 1980s in the top economies of our world are not exposed to the fear, war, starvation, or political injustice of the generations before us.
Our ancestors remember, and the other half still struggle daily, but our main complaints about how words can hurt, and a lack of privileges affects our well-being.
Real change has occurred and is still happening, but it needs to be accomplished for the right reasons and on a global scale, not because something impacted our self-worth.
Only a generation ago, my family lived in poverty. My father grew up in the tenements in Ireland. These were low-income housing projects where one or more families would share a one-room space and sanitary facilities were shared by a whole floor. He told me how he would be consumed by collecting tin cans from pavements and roadside in his spare time as a child (he is one of 10). After collecting a pile, he would bring them to a recycling factory to earn a shilling from them. This was enough to buy a chocolate bar. In a school run by the Catholic church, he was given two meals a day which was not the same thing as the laissez-faire democratic schools that we see today.
My mother was brought up in a family of 11 children by two hard-working parents; however, they also struggled with daily life and providing the basics. In contrast to what I encounter today, both never blamed or complained about their upbringing; they did the opposite and were both grateful for the struggle their parents endured.
I did grow up in a working-class area. However, my parents provided me with more than enough. I had food for whenever I felt like eating. I had to share a room with three other boys, but there was no shortage of anything in my home. Although I had a pleasant experience in school, I posed more of a threat to the teachers than they did to me.
In reflection, all of this is the source of my own personal qualm about why I sometimes feel so anxious about my life.
My father got on with it without the need for constant introspection and unnecessary comparison. I have witnessed and read about people who overcame great hardships and thrived afterward. Every time I read accounts like this, especially of my hero George Orwell and his conquests to support the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, or Viktor Frankl, they have followed similar pursuits and withstood mental duress.
I look at myself and feel disappointment, especially when I compare myself to others on social media whom I deem to hold a superior lifestyle. It is because we all lose sight of and are negligent that some people still suffer pain and injustices in ways that we do not.
Reading Noam Chomsky and other accounts of such atrocities in Gaza and Iraq gives me a profound sense of sadness to think I live so safely with my partner, daughter, and dog, while others live in constant fear.
The more I read about it and especially the more I started to discuss it openly with friends and family, I finally surmised that we live in a bubble of false existence and comparison.
We have so much to be grateful for; food is in abundance for the majority, we live in safer times than ever existed in some parts of the world. Most families have a house, car, free education, access to medical services, and freedom to become whatever and whomever they wish. It is time we stop playing the small violin for our half and give genuine attention to those who still struggle, who are doing their best to improve their circumstances.
Right now, we all are focused on a Covid pandemic, and the climate crisis as these are the two overwhelmingly reported stories on all our newsfeeds. Yet, in all our lifetimes, we are acutely aware that we are not equal to all our counterparts as a global species. If we were lucky enough to win the lottery of life and be born in a fair democracy, then we have been given more entitlements than what the other half of the world must fight, beg, and die to earn within their lifetimes.
I, for one, do not want to have a child brought into this world of indifference. Why is it we will save trees and not our fellow humans? Why is it not the forefront of all the top economies to strategize world equality, to stop war, violence, and starvation? We need to rejoice in the progress of humanity, and yes, strive for further improvement but not belittle the journey that has gone before us and, more importantly, neglect the other half that still endures this burden alone.
People like Malala Yousafzai, Noam Chomsky, and others bring this topic to our attention, but it is not enough to gather the popularity of the masses. Aristotle wrote about the art of Rhetoric in the 4th century BC. It is the power of persuasion, and it theorizes that facts are not the way to sway an argument but only how something is said or sold to the masses. This way of logic is still alive and well in our current society.
Unfortunately, we do not hear the real stories because the Machiavellian forms of control have been replaced with a much more powerful tool—distraction.
Whenever somebody asks about what kind of world we want for our children, I think of this generation fighting for equality to proudly say we left the world in a better place than we found it, as our ancestors did for us.