Take action, shape the world

In a recent geography lab, my classmates and I did an exercise to determine our geographical awareness of countries in Africa and Europe. To my amazement and dismay, the majority of us, myself included, demonstrated ignorance of the locations of many countries–including and especially those featured prominently in the news in recent months.

The same feeling hits me as I realize how little interest I have in the burgeoning crises in Yugoslavia and the Middle East. So many times, hearing about another outbreak of ethnic violence or political unrest in these regions, my first thought is "not again…"

What causes this apathy and unconcern for the fate of human beings in crisis? Increasingly, these things are just attributed to natural human aggression and the deteriorating state of human affairs, read about with our morning coffees and forgotten by the time we get to our work or lectures.

Have violence and hate become such common occurrences in our world that they are easy to ignore? Or have they just converted themselves into part of our culture; TV, movies, music and magazines reflect the conflicts taking place in every part of the world–terror and revulsion spoonfed to the masses. Now commonplace, the atrocities committed around the world no longer arouse in us the need to protest them.

What will change the status quo? What can you or I do to change the hate and tension characterizing today’s world climate? It’s easy to feel powerless to change things halfway across the world when we can’t even convince our provincial government that health and education are important, but it’s clear that something needs to be done before the situation explodes.

The first step is to inform ourselves–to read the stories below the headlines, to research the conflicts, to understand their causes and their effects, to look into the faces of the millions of refugees and political prisoners. Then it’s time to take action; whether through a large group like Amnesty International, or a smaller one like Students for a Free Tibet; there’s power in numbers, and many voices are louder than one. Take time out of your day to care what happens to someone else, to examine your prejudices and the reasons behind your apathy.

You might be surprised to find how easy it is to change the world.

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