Thursday, July 12, 2012

Action Is More Important Than Sympathy

A Long Walk Home is a story about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the USA.  The discrimination and immoral actions in the USA at that time was horrible.  The tide was turned by many many small actions by many people (along with some great actions by a few).  It is very easy for society to allow a few misguided people to mislead us.

I think it is important to remember that it looks easy to see horrendous immorality in others.  It is very easy to miss the chances for you to act to make the world a better place, a more just place, a more moral place, a place you can not just accept but be proud of.  The actions you take matter much more than your ability to sit back and judge others you can't influence.

I find it helpful to watch movies like this and think about what I can do today to make a difference.  The battles are not the same.  The winners haven't been named, and often those we will look back with disgust on later had the power to make their immoral actions seem to be acceptable.

Paperclips is another inspirational movie. It is a documentary about a consciousness-raising project at a rural Tennessee school. The principal of Whitwell Middle School sought a program that would teach diversity to a predominantly white, Protestant student body, the notion of focusing on the Holocaust.

People that have helped us overthrow those leaders promoting racial discrimination, House Committee on Un-American Activities (McCarthyism witch-hunts), war crimes... took difficult stands (and substantial personal risks) to make society better.  We have opportunities to make a difference and we don't have to risk nearly as much.  We should do so.

Waiting until leadership has amassed the power of something like the House Committee on Un-American Activities is very dangerous.  Once that happens much more spectacular heroic action is required to save us than is required in stopping the dramatic, Orwellian (just look at the name of that committee, and the name of some of the recent acts of Congress), anti-liberty actions of government.

Sometimes inaction doesn't make future action harder.  But inaction can still be enormously costly.  The extreme poverty we have in the world (even after 70 years of fantastic wealth in the USA and elsewhere) means millions of people die every year for want of a few dollars (for food, safe water or basic medicine).  We can make a difference if we want.  It is as easy as writing a check, or with other, more direct action to help.  Or by writing (filming, sharing...) a story about the actions of those that were willing to make an effort to create a better world have done for us already.

Related:  The Moral Consequences of Your Decisions - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy getting through another day - Giving More Than Money to Charity - You Can Help Reduce Extreme Poverty - Bad Behavior

No comments: