i can't change the world...but shouldn't I try? - U2 Feedback

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Old 02-27-2002, 12:59 PM   #1
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i can't change the world...but shouldn't I try?

Lately I have found myself feeling incredibly frustrated and guilty. There is SO much going on in the world, so much heartbreak, hunger, evil...so many people who need so much, and yet I live in such comparative luxury and worry about stupid things like what I'm going to eat for lunch and what's on television tonite. Having grown up as I did in a 3rd world country and having seen firsthand the difference that can be made in people's lives by just a few willing hands, I'm finding it harder and harder to justify my existence here. How can I sit back and not DO something? But what can I do? Where to start?

I feel awash in a sea of materialism and although I'm not trying to judge society as a whole, I am beginning to feel suffocated as I slowly see myself buying into it all. I don't know. This is probably pretty incoherent. But I just feel like I have been given so much. One week of my salary could feed and clothe a family in the Congo. But I'll probably spend it on things I don't need.

I read about the lives of people like Ghandi, and I feel so ashamed of myself. My petty concerns and my selfishness. There is a world out there and I have seen a good deal of it, and yet here I am mired in college debt and spinning my wheels. Sometimes the American dream looks like a yawning trap waiting to snap shut on me. Go to school to get a good job to pay for the debt you rack up at school. Then go into debt for a car, then a house, then spend life a slave to the bills for these things.

I just don't know. I feel as though I cannot justify a life lived solely for myself. How can I when there is a sea of humanity that is in so much need?

I don't know why I'm posting this...and least of all here. But I guess I'm wondering if any of you have felt the same, and if so what you've done about it or what you think.

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Old 02-27-2002, 01:25 PM   #2
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I think everyone (with a conscience) goes through what you're feeling. I don't think it's unnatural, and I don't think your thoughts are incoherant.

I think a young wise man once said, "I can't change the world but I can change the world in me."

So if there are things in your life that are suffocating you, you have the power to change your situation one step at a time. Unfortunately the world tends to revolve around money, a job, and making the rent. It's just a part of what we in this society have to go through if we want to get by without ending up on the street or taking a handout. It is unfortunate that everything like an education to putting bread and water on the table comes with a price tag, and even more unfortunate that these kinds of things get us into debt, but sadly that's the way it is. It's the trade off and it's frustrating and suffocating all the same. There are some things we can't change, but there are things we can do to adapt...

I think it's perfectly natural to relieve that tension by allowing us some frivolties in life. If it's a cd, a new stereo, a new dress, a larger place to live, whatever - you need to reward yourself for the hard work you do. To go without simply because people in Africa have so little wouldn't contribute to your overall happiness in allowing yourself some luxuries from time to time. It's the trade off you make from working long hours or studying hard in school. I think it's important to be a little selfish and allow yourself some things in moderation - you have a right to be happy, and you are in a position to allow yourself some luxuries - you are fortunate to do so. If you continue to rest the weight of the world on your shoulders, your overall happiness will suffer. There are very few people on this earth that are completely selfless - but even the ones that are so selfless, they are gaining an inner peace that ultimately makes them a happier person. You see what I'm trying to say? Now I think I'm the one who's incoherant in my ramblings.

It seems to me like you want to do something for the greater good of people in general, as in doing this and chucking aside material things would make you a happier person. I guess a good start would be to involve yourself more in organizations you feel would give you that inner peace and happiness, while at the same time you are contributing to the happiness of others.

But as for yourself, you shouldn't beat yourself up because you aren't doing enough, or beat yourself up because you choose to spend your hard earned dollars making your life more comfortable. Sometimes changing the world starts in your own backyard. You seem to be doing fine, and you have a good conscience.

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Old 02-27-2002, 01:49 PM   #3
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Was that me writing that post??
That's EXACTLY what I'm thinking of right now, today, this minute.

I've always known that I want to do something but I'm really a coward, lazy, selfish and comfortable to have done anything. But the last couple of days I have actually started to active look up different opportunities to go and take half a year, a year off work and do some volounteering in Africa. It's like Bono said in Time, I'm not dreaming anymore, I'm more into doing. That's how I feel. I'm still a coward and don't know how long I would make it in Africa but I feel like I want to give it a try.

Life has given me so much and I'm so tired of people complaining over the smallest things, like street musicians playing too loud so we hear it in the office and stuff like that. Or customers that are rude to me because their telephone hasn't been workíng for two hours. I feel like shouting out to them to think about those that never get to hear music or don't even know what a phone is.

If I can make one people happy, give them something, whatever it is, for a short moment that would make me feel useful or whatever you want to call it. Some would say it's just for my own selfishness (did I make up a word there?) for feeling good, it might be, but so be it, if it helped another person and made me feel good at the same time, then we are two people happy.

Maybe you should see if you can do some volounteering too Sula. I guess there are bunch of organizations that need help.
Have you heard of one called Youth with a mission? They have places all over the world where you can work at hospitals, schools, gardening etc etc. And it includes some missioning (another made up word?) I was on my way a few years ago but never went. Their homepage is www.ywam.org

Conclusion, you are not alone in your thoughts....
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Old 02-27-2002, 05:16 PM   #4
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I wouldn't feel guilty. I don't remember how old you are, but you are probably still rather young (20s perhaps?). If that is the case, you still have most of your life ahead of you.

As for myself, I'm doing what I can now, and that is mostly to plant ideas into others' heads. I don't have the power nor the money to change the world yet. However, I'm not giving up. In ten years, I hope to be starting the path to me actually changing the world for the better, rather than just writing empty words that are easily forgotten. In twenty years, I hope to be fully into it.


"He had lived through an age when men and women with energy and ruthlessness but without much ability or persistence excelled. And even though most of them had gone under, their ignorance had confused Roy, making him wonder whether the things he had striven to learn, and thought of as 'culture,' were irrelevant. Everything was supposed to be the same: commercials, Beethoven's late quartets, pop records, shopfronts, Freud, multi-coloured hair. Greatness, comparison, value, depth: gone, gone, gone. Anything could give some pleasure; he saw that. But not everything provided the sustenance of a deeper understanding." - Hanif Kureishi, Love in a Blue Time
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Old 02-27-2002, 05:48 PM   #5
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Cheer up and don't despair - what you are feeling is GOOD. Challenging yourself to be a "better", less selfish person is GOOD. Many of us do it also, and I also routinely feel like I fail the test in so many ways. Exceedingly few people triumph in the way of Gandhi, and really you don't have to live a Gandhi-like life to change the world in smaller ways. START WITH BABY STEPS - pick something you really want to help with, find an organization, and start there. Over time, you'll figure out if flying to a faraway place is the way you were meant to help the world, or if you're better suited for some other way. But keep challenging yourself the way you are now, and go out of your way to figure out where you might best fit in.

Gandhi would have gotten nowhere without a few hundred million regular people like us, who weren't willing to sacrifice everything but who were willing to make damned sure that they did at least a small part.

Side note: There's a great, short book by Howard Zinn, called "You can't be neutral on a moving train", that provides an excellent depiction of how efforts by the few and the weak can ultimately result in monumental change.
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Old 02-27-2002, 09:40 PM   #6
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sula, those are my thoughts exactly. I agree with adam's_mistress about changing the world in your own backyard. You don't have to travel to Somalia to help people. I often feel guilty for even being in the fine arts business (in laymen terms, it is the artsy stuff dealing with sculptures, paintings, ideas etc). Sounds irrational doesn't it? Well, I feel guilty because I think, "Hm, in the big picture, art doesn't really make a difference does it?" Even BONO himself has resigned to that fact (see the Time article on him). That is a really depressing thought for me as my entire livelihood depends on this business. However, in my more optimistic moods, I like to think that if I can't help poor people (as in, famine relief etc), I can at least help the 'art punters', or those who are familiar with the art of reading art, in that I can sow an idea in their minds (like melon said). In other words, if I were a novelist, I could be changing a reader's life, if not a Third World impoverished person. Because the arts is my niche, and I think I can help people who similarly operate in this niche.

Still, the fact remains that I constantly feel guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty, just like you. I am not sure if the guilt helps or it hampers.


so bounce, basketball, bounce
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Old 02-28-2002, 12:42 AM   #7
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hey sula.

i've always looked at the honors degree i'm getting as empowering me to help people.

in the meantime, i don't know. 20% of canadian's live below the poverty line and i'm friends with some of them. it seems like such a distant world for me, and this is 'poor' people in toronto and montreal who actually do have appartments and some have cars but we call them poor.

i hate to say it but at the end of the nite you need to think of yourself and ensure that you are comfortable-does this mean excess? perhaps but that is where each individual draws their own line. what you have to give beyond that is to be used at your own discretion and each individual uses it differently.

the true goal of any individual is happiness, from whichever source they choose to derive it from.

social classes and repressive social practices are an instrument of capitalism, imo. perhaps what you need to do is take in some critical theorists like say marcusa

speaking of which i owe you an email...
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Old 02-28-2002, 02:02 AM   #8
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I just want to write in here really quickly to tell you not to feel guilty about living the life you live, doing the things you want to do, and thinking the things you think, This is the American Dream, However it has evolved.. or devolved in the minds of a select few, so be it, You have the freedoms that we fought for in the Revolutionary War.. (Is that why you feel guilty.. cuz you aren't a Born American?.. or are you?.. either way it doesn't matter).. Our country has worked for it's freedoms, If you truly want to go help something somewhere, I would suggest service in another country.. or the Sally Struthers Feed a Hungry Child Promotion, but as long as you continue to live here in America don't feel guilty, don't contradict yourself, and be thankful for what you have, and the fact that you are even able to have the luxury to sympathasize with those less fortunate than you, than pitying yourself.

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Old 02-28-2002, 10:17 AM   #9
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Sula, I know exactly what you mean. And I really don't know what to do; other than just try to do one small thing at a time, even if it is local..positive actions have a tendency to spread outwards, and they teach about kindness, who knows, you could inspire people to do something about it.....
I'm headed off into nowhere with this thought but I think you understand what I'm trying to say.
It must be a lot harder for you because of where you grew up; but don't be hard on yourself and don't try to tackle problems that are too big and out of your hands as a whole; break it down and do the small things that count.
Anyway that's how I'm thinking right now, and I may very well be wrong. But I guess all I wanted to say, Bono summed up in my sig.......

You make yourself vulnerable to change in your life. But in the end, you've got to become the change you want to see in the world.
-the B-man
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Old 03-02-2002, 03:12 AM   #10
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There's a lot of people who feel the way you do, sula. I get the point that you feel obligated to your fellow man. But why does it only have to be your "poor" fellow man?
Why can't it be the people next door or on the street? They have problems too. How can you expect to really help someone else when you have problems you have to resolve in your own life? Do you really think America is the ideal society?

I really like the point you made about "buying into this system". That's exactly what people are discovering everyday about the "American" way of doing things. It's not a perfect system and definitely doesn't help everyone to see the bigger and more profound issues in life. These issues are: Who am I serving? Myself or others.
What is my purpose in life?

My experience with these questions have lead me to a definite and real conclusion. I saw what you had to say about relief efforts bringing short-term relief in the 3rd world, but what about long-term relief. That's out of our control, really. However, with knowledge and understanding people can come to their own conclusions and change their individual outlooks on life. Then things won't seem so bad because they'll be looking to the future and an eventual end to the suffering. Can man really end the suffering they've caused in the first place?
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Old 03-03-2002, 10:38 AM   #11
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Well, at least you understand there is a world beyond you. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Kohlberg or Maslow scales of social development. They're basically the same thing only with different wording. They show the levels at which people develop socially. The Maslow scale goes something like this:
1. Selfish, everything revolves around the individual in this stage.

2. Selfish but helpful, the individual begins to understand that if they help someone they may get something in return.

3. Laws, the individual must oblige to all the laws, be they regulatory laws or social unwritten laws.

4. Semi-world understanding, the individual begins to understand there is a wold beyond them. Tolerance begins to make its way permanantly into the personality.

5. World, the individual begins to understand other perspectives. Realizes that what they do is not the most important thing. Tolerance and love are imbedded into the personality.

Most of our society lives on level 3. We need more people to begin thinking on levels 4 and 5. You can change the world, don't let anything discourage you from thinking that. Lobby, protest, boycot, just get your informtion out there as best you can. People will pay attention. Just pick your cause, be educated on your cause, and promote it. People will learn and eventually change.

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Old 03-03-2002, 11:53 AM   #12
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Hi all,

Like the other replies, I too have found myself with the same thoughts, concerns and feelings.
Where to start you ask? Assuming you're interested, DO something!
Pick a cause, or 1000 causes, look them up online, in the phone book and send them an inquiry. No organization will turn down your helping hand. Even if you think you're too busy or can't spare any cash, (btw, I have found that your time is more valuable than your $$) I think you can. I think anyone can. I recieve info on cases on a weekly basis from Amnesty International. It takes 30 minutes to write my letter to Governors, Generals, politicians and sometimes you do get replies. It feels great and I know for me it has helped alleviate the doubt and worry in the state of our world, because lets face it, it's pretty sad. I know I feel better for it.
Does it work?
Sure does. Over the Christmas holiday an 8 year old boy in Yemen who was kidnapped for ransom was returned to his family. I feel I had a part in that :-D
I'm in school 2 nights a week and I work full time....make the time. That's all anyone is asking.
Okay, do I sound like Sally Struthers yet? lol
No preaching intended y'all. Just hoping to encourage.

Love, Peace and Respect to you all!


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