Power To The People 2: Finding Meaning

Last Wednesday, the Independent site published an article about the ways in which internet has been used for raising people's awareness for social causes, money for campaigns and helping startup entrepreneurs all around the world, also in the lowest social classes.

It is a very important report, both for its contents, which give an overview on the several ways internet is "letting individuals express their inborn generosity", but also for certain key comments it features.

Take, for instance, this statement by economist Robert Fogel:

People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means, but no meaning."

Is that the reason behind people's yearnings in all aspects of their lives? Are they looking for meaning when they become some band's die-hard fans, or when they identify themselves so much with their jobs and the companies they work for, that they lose their own identities, and as a consequence, when they are let go, they feel depressed and suicidal, as if they had died in the process?

Instead of looking for a meaning in such unreliable and sometimes even fickle things, shouldn't we look for a meaning within ourselves, in those feelings, skills and knowledge we have and can develop, which nothing can take away from us, and which can be useful not only to our immediate circle of influence, but to unknown thousands worldwide?

I think that's one of the most important aspects of internet: it has given us a means through which we can find meaning in our lives beyond the mundanity of our daily toil.

This is the one place where it doesn't matter where you come from, whether you're a man or a woman, poor or rich, good-looking or ugly, old or young, white, black or blue, you can reach out to others like yourself and even help those who in "real life" would frown at you, just because you don't fit their normal standards. And I mean it, when I say help those people, because the selfish and intolerant are the ones who need most help.

Another interesting excerpt:

The reason more people are trying to find meaning in social contribution... [is that] ...despite 50 years of GDP growth... we haven’t got any happier. Quite the opposite, mounting evidence of unhappiness is all around us, like rising crime (one in three young British males are convicted of a crime before their thirtieth birthday), alcoholism (since 1950, more and more people are dying from liver cirrhosis), clinical depression (on the up since World War II), youth suicide or days off work.

The data above mentions only Britain, but you know that every prosperous country has the same problems. For years now, the bourgeois commonplace idea that if-I-have-money-I'll-be-happy has shipwrecked. This is one of the most absurd ideas in the sense that, though a decent income is essential for well-being, some of the most important things in life can't be bought. I wonder if the reason why crime is rising, people are drinking and using drugs more, there's more depression, suicide and addictions than ever before, is because the system has collapsed.

With the system defunct, we have basically two kinds of people: those who manage to keep up, by renewing themselves, recycling ideas, finding new meanings, and among these are the ones who volunteer, or contribute to society somehow, and then there are the weak ones, those who lose themselves, who are unable of filling the gap left by the system, because they have misconceptions and limitations that prevent them from finding a positive way out. Could they find a way out if they applied themselves? Of course. There's no such thing as being constrained to accept failure.

Instead of wasting time complaining about the sun that never shines and envying the neighbor's greener garden, we should find ways - or make them up, in case they're not available - to make the world better. After all, the good things we have nowadays are the result of what our forefathers did (as much as the crappy things).

The article also has this inspiring quote from Einstein:

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

This quote is echoed by the article's author, Andy Hobsbawm, when he says that:

"The only way to tackle something that affects all of us is together, so some level of global consciousness is going to need to take place if mankind can defeat a problem of this scale."

Whether it's a stranger we'll never meet, a problem in a country with a culture so strange to us as to be incomprehensible, we can't claim it doesn't affect us anymore, we can't fool ourselves by imagining that problems that happen in France won't happen in Brazil, because they already do. We can't keep nourishing delusions of superiority anymore, because we live in the world not in an isolated piece of land in another dimension.

The world isn't united by peace and love, but by suffering and need. One day that will be inverted, if each one of us does our part now.

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