As a journalist, something I’ve noticed increasingly over the past few years is the growing discontent of people, largely since The Great Recession.
The blame for the mess differs, as does proclaimed solutions, but there seems to be an overwhelming sense of loss of control, of helplessness against forces one disagrees with or feels oppressed by.
Personally, it seems to me this has been a long time coming and that, upon close examination, we all really want the same thing, on a very simple level, but the specifics we each turn to consistently divide us.
But even if we all suddenly found ourselves on the same page, it seems that apathy runs as rampant as dissatisfaction and frustration.
Life is busy, we are being pulled in a multitude of directions and stretch ourselves thin, leaving little time to organize our thoughts and ourselves, despite the fact doing so just might be among the top two or three things we should be doing with ourselves.
Plus, many feel helpless and that it is hopeless.
I recently read a book and then watched the movie, Cloud Atlas, and it contained much of this struggle, a compelling reflection of the times.
At one point, David Mitchell, the author, has a character try to strong arm another against getting involved in a fight he believes in by pointing out that he is “No more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” to which the other character responds, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops.”
One might think romantic notions are merely for the movies, but this world could use an infusion of passion and belief.
I consistently try to reinforce in my daughter that even the smallest act, even a sole person, makes a difference with his or her actions or through the behavior that is modeled, sometimes immediately, other times over a great span, possibly by impacting one person, who impacts two, who impacts three, etc.
I think maybe if people remembered this, we would see much less apathy and possibly change much quicker than we imagined.
After all, besides money, the other extremely powerful force that can affect change is people in large numbers.
Plus, “All revolutions are the sheerest fantasy until they happen; then they become historical inevitabilities,” another quote from Mitchell in his novel Cloud Atlas.
That doesn’t necessarily mean some sort of armed or violent or forceful revolution, but perhaps and preferably a revolution of the mind that brings together large groups of people that finally say, “Enough. We are tired of the status quo.”
From what I hear from all sorts of people with different political, religious, etc., beliefs, change is desired, yet there is little real – or large enough - effort to bring any of it about, except voting and hoping for something that never seems to happen, and if it does, not nearly in the way so many people hoped.
Mitchell writes, quite passionately, “If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth and claw, if we believe diverse races and creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable and the riches of the Earth and its oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass.”
I’m not saying that is what we all believe or must subscribe to, but you get the point.
I realize I’ve quoted Mitchell a few times in this column, but I believe his words are inspirational and he is a great thinker.
I’m not the only one, as Time magazine listed him among the 100 most influential people in the world.
Action and belief are powerful, as are people, when they conquer their apathy and believe in themselves and take action to change the world.
Stephen Bartlett may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org