“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” — Coretta Scott King
Something needs to change. There is something inherently broken in our contemporary society – especially in North America.
How we move forward from here will decide if we tear ourselves apart or if we continue to grow into the future. But what will it take to stop us from collapsing into a black hole of our own design?
Our future as a community depends on whether we can let go of toxic individualism. We stand on the precipice of utter and complete disaster.
If we continue on this path, we are guaranteed a world that doesn’t take care of the vulnerable or needy members of the community. Compassion and kindness are thrown out to make way for self-interest and egocentric thinking. It will be a Purge-style every-man-for-himself libertarian hellscape. Individual convenience and freedoms will take precedence over everything at the expense of those who need assistance.
It’s an ableist and ageist society that will let everyone who can’t “tough it out” fall through the cracks and ultimately suffer.
Imagine for a moment what that world will look like: the streets full of homeless, especially the elderly, because there are no shelters or programs to help seniors in need. Millions — or even billions — of people, including children, die of preventable diseases and illnesses because there is no public healthcare. Children go uneducated, public transportation halts completely, and so many social programs we take for granted would end.
If humanity's most selfish aspects continue to grow and fester in ways they have in the last decade, we will surely hit a breaking point.
What will it take before the people who think not wearing a mask or not following health protocols put in place to protect them from a deadly virus or not electing to get a vaccine to realize that they’re not thinking for themselves, they are thinking only about themselves?
No person lives in a vacuum. We are a society – a word that comes from the Latin socius “companion” – and individual actions have amplified collective consequences.
These people see themselves as “freedom fighters” against the oppressive responsibility of living in a world where they can’t do whatever they want without accountability. As if they haven’t benefited from the collective good like public education or public healthcare (here in Canada at least), which were paid for by civilian taxes.
If you want freedom from personal and social responsibility for others' health and well-being, you should be exempted from the social programs the community has built. You are free to take care of yourself with all that entails.
When a world crisis affects every single person on the planet, we can’t act as if a single person is more important than any other.
It’s easy to throw a tantrum about personal freedoms when the problem itself isn’t personal. What point does the crisis have to reach before it’s enough?
When your parents have died?
When your partner is admitted to the ICU on life support?
When your child is hospitalized?
When YOU are?
Where is the line drawn for empathy to finally kick in?
Our entire history and everything we’ve achieved on this planet have been possible because humanity worked together. Apart, we are nothing but survival, together, we build civilizations, pyramids, space stations, life-saving medicine. All the things we take for granted now as commonplace. Our lives were not built by individuals, they were built by communities.
One drop doesn’t make an ocean – not even a puddle – and one grain of sand doesn’t make a beach.
But, we must embrace compassion again.
We must put kindness and social responsibility above our individual egos in moments like this.
We must see the value in every person and not just those closest to us – or just ourselves.
We must hold up a mirror to our behaviour to see how damaging it is to act so selfishly.
We must understand the modern world as we know it would collapse if we continue down this road to pure individualism.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but that entitlement cannot extend past the point of the health and safety of others. Your right to freedom does not trump my right to live.
We are free to make choices, we have the right to choose, but not every choice is right.
I choose to wear a mask and get the vaccine, not only for my own health but because I don’t want the potential weight of someone’s death on my shoulders. There is no guarantee, but I can be proactive in what I do to make sure I don’t potentially transmit anything. I couldn’t know for sure if the choices I made could possibly end someone’s life. At least, when I make active choices, I know I’ve done all I could to protect others.
Because I care.
We can’t continue acting like individual rights and freedoms are the most important things when people are dying. If we stop caring, the world might as well end. There is no coming back. There is no way to save ourselves if we stop acting as a community.
This is where we are at. No sugar coating. No pseudo-optimistic inspirational bullshit. This is the point of no return.
So something needs to change. Or we will break apart at the seams.