Sunday, August 19, 2012

A First World Dilemma

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 

The schizophrenia at this dilemma is unreal. This past week I've been pulled to the latter because of not knowing whether to give up on the former. I've been disgusted, ashamed and disheartened discovering all the new (but mostly old) ways in which humanity turns in on itself. I finished reading Stasiland, one of the most engaging non-fiction books I have ever read. I took Genocide Studies as an elective last semester, which was a horrific tour through The Worst humankind has to offer from the beginning of time right up til the present day. I'm taking another humanities subject which details the history of Colonialism, racism and the like. My most recent fall into the pits of despair, however, was brought on by the Gillard government's announcement of a return to the off-shore processing centre in Nauru for asylum-seekers, that was closed down after a lot of public out-cry and petitioning by human rights groups. It's re-opening its doors. Really? Really?

Why, though, was I surprised to hear that a political party backflipped on their campaign promises? Apparently I did have some sort of misguided faith that the present was different; we were done with the inhumane "solutions" of the past, we were self-conscious of our past mistakes, we had overcome. 

It's not hard to see why so many of us are so quickly jaded, harassed by the media to care about so many different issues that repeat without end in sight. When we were children, and everything was experienced for the first time, we had an acute sense of justice, of empathy, of everything. As you get older, the effects wane and things don't move you, the guilt lessens and you learn to put up a wall so all the horrible, messy, disasters of the outside world don't take toll on the important task of Getting Through The Day.

You can't let everything get to you, if you did you would never get through the day. If I let myself feel all the anger I have at the injustices of all the many Bad Complicated Things, I would so quickly retreat into myself I wouldn't implode, but cease functioning. So you have to pick your battles. While it's impossible to care about everything, it is important to have something to care about, and act on. 

So half the time I want to take up this mantra of our 'me' generation, that has everything our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents never had, 'Carpe diem the hell out of that shit' (otherwise known as the annoying acronym YOLO 'You Only Live Once'). I am addicted to all the Tumblr pictures that tell me to Be An Adventurer, that The World Is At Your Feet, to Keep Calm and Party Hard etc. What's not to love in a motto that tells you to go wild with self-indulgence?

It's hard to know whether you want to resign yourself to the inevitable shitty realities of life and party down on this sinking ship, or use all that youthful energy to improve the world we reside in. Some days I get so down I just want to shut it all out and other days it's all I can think about. It's a good thing, like most cases, these are not mutually exclusive. Some days you just need to enjoy what you have, and other days you need to demand more of the world and yourself than Happy Hour and TGIFs.

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