More times than not, I try to maintain a healthy level of optimism that people are generally good and generally trying to do the right thing. Living in this hyper-connected world where we can see bombs dropping on Gaza in one instant, the blood massacre of the Yazidis in Iraq in another or an unarmed black teen lying dead face-down in the street of Ferguson, USA in yet another, it sometimes seems like our deep window into the world is darkly shaded. We bounce from hashtag to hashtag from ice bucket challenge to “like this,” “share this,” frequently enough that it all becomes a blur of fucked up shit inundating us.
What are we to make of this? Why should we care? I’m just a poor college student trying to pay down my outstanding debts, make cuddle time with my dog and have fun with friends. Why should it matter to me that Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot dead? Why should it matter to me that the U.S. is back to bombing Iraq for the fourth consecutive president now?
Well, because at the end of the day, there are things bigger than the problems in your immediacy. Not that those problems do not mean anything, but the point of living in a society, of possessing empathy and utilizing this window into the suffering of others, is that we’re supposed to care about issues that don’t immediately harm us (although, many, like myself, will argue that all of these issues do relate to us, do harm us). No reasonable person can be expected to maintain passion and interest and knowledge on all of these subjects all the time. It’s too much; it’s much to filter out the bullshit from the facts and shed the fluff to see what’s the systematic roots of a problem. It can create cynicism, pessimism and ultimately, apathy, right? But we shouldn’t let it.
There’s always room for optimism and there’s always room for caring.
I’m often accosted for this here blog, “Well, why do you blog? What’s the point?” There’s two points, one somewhat selfish. The first is that I blog for myself. I do blog posts about political and social issues (and others, but I’m focusing specifically on that area here) to help me streamline my thoughts and all of those articles and talking heads I’ve been inundated with over a particular issue. It helps me to better clarify what my position is, what my thoughts are and the issue at hand. The second reason is for whoever happens to stumble across my “ginger musings.” Maybe they will find my style of bringing all that information together (maybe in an “explainer” type of way) and offering my own opinion insightful and helpful. Maybe constructive. If not, that’s okay, too. If we disagree, but you still found it interesting, that’s great. We don’t have to agree on everything.
Anyway, the whole reason I initiated this latest musing is to discuss the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death. I’ve personally found the reactions I’ve seen on social media, from fellow friends on Facebook, and in articles across various magazines and newspapers to be encouraging. Maybe, just maybe the stigma against depression, suicide and mental illness as a whole is lessening. Maybe with my generation’s continuing acceptance and empathy on social issues with respect to the LBTQ (or whichever variant you want to use) community, legalizing marijuana and so on, will extend to a better understanding and empathizing for mentally ill individuals suffering from crippling depression and other diseases of the mind.
While all forms of violent crime in the U.S. and the world are going down and have been trending downward for a while now (again, more room for optimism), suicide actually has been going up. It’s the biggest silent killer in the U.S. — that is, it’s not receiving marathon runs and pink ribbons.
For something that more people died from than automobile accidents (38,364 people vs. 33,687) and with 1 in 15 people suffering from depression, you would think we’d get better about understanding this thing.
And maybe, we are. Maybe we are. I have hope that we’ll get it right.