This photograph of a little girl from the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo might be a good start for my blog experiment. In a difficult moment last year I looked at this picture and it turned into an honest moment. I thought: Whatever is going on with my life, I cannot accept that this girl will live through the horrors that so many people are facing in this region. This is the most important reason to go on.
But one cannot prevent this from happening by finding this particular little girl and trying to help her. One needs to change the structures that make these horrors happen. And one cannot even prevent this by changing the structures in the east of the DRC. We need to change the whole world.
Fortunately, we are not alone. Many people around the world do not want such things to happen. I have the strong impression that it is the vast majority of us.
Even more fortunately, the structures we need to change are human-made. In order to change them, we don’t need to strive for the impossible. We just need to stop accepting the unacceptable.
I am not writing this to try to convince or put moral pressure on anybody. As far as I can judge, it is up to each of us to see if it suits better to concentrate on one’s own happiness or on the chances of others to concentrate on theirs. I personally think both ways (and all nuanced combinations of the two) can have their full justification. I do not think it makes sense to force oneself to “do something good”, if it feels like some external obligation. The only thing I think we all should aim for is treating ourselves and others with respect. Again, I have the strong impression that this feels right for most of us.
A basic challenge in my view isto be conscious of the consequences of our actions, given that it is a survival function of the human mind to focus on the surroundings that affect us immediately and to blur out things that are remote and inconvenient. Even if we strive to be respectful, we might be supporting structures that are very harmful to others just by doing what seems the most convenient in our immediate conscious world.
I think for quite a few of us, the two mentioned ways are strongly connected. By this I mean, for quite a few of us freely following one’s own path involves working to remove the obstacles that prevent others of freely following theirs. I believe that if these people work together and raise the consciousness of those who concentrate on living their own lives, then changing the structures that make this world a horrible place for many is very feasible. We just need to start.