When Judge Gen, creator of the universe, reflected on the world, she tried to see what she could change. Her verdict was this:
"Obviously earth is cancelled… all humans on earth and in the afterlife will be extinguished and we will start the entire human race over from scratch… it’s just too much of a mess down there, you know. I mean, the simplest solution is to erase everyone that ever lived and restart with a bunch of amoebas or whatever. Then human life will evolve again, or maybe even something better… guys, the problem isn’t the points. It’s that earth has become too complicated for the points to reflect the value of human behaviour” (The Good Place, season 4, episode 8)
But wait a second, Judge Gen, what about the fact that humans are actually great?? We cured polio in 1953, fought for black civil rights in 1960, landed on the moon in 1969, started a movement for women’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s. The Berlin wall also came down in 1989, we had a same-sex marriage movement in the 2000s, and the first black president in 2009. What about all those life-changing things?
But life-changing takes form in many different lights. In those same years, we also had the Vietnam war, Columbine high school massacre, Bali bombings, and same-sex marriage is still only legally recognised and performed in 29 out of 195 countries.
We are in a constant conundrum with progress and absolute chaos. There is no in between. As humans, we cannot decide whether we want to heal or hurt and we therefore fluctuate between two extreme poles of moral and violence. So when I say, ‘humans are funny’, I mean it in the most ironic way.
Humans are funny because the grey line between good and bad is so blurry that sometimes humans fail to decide or even know which side they’re on.
Humans are funny because they are inconsistent. Humans complain how much they want a holiday and then when they get one, they complain about how much they miss routine. Humans sexualise lesbians watching hours of porn, without taking a single minute to create a safe space for queerness in real life. Humans have 138 shootings between 2010 and 2020 in a single country, and still decide not keep guns because they need them for ‘protection’.
In Australia, guns were banned in 1996, and since then “there hasn’t been a single massacre since. I don’t know how or why this happened, maybe it was a coincidence… in Australia we had the biggest massacre on earth, and the Australian government went, ‘that’s it, no more gun!’, and we all went, ‘yeah alright then, that seems fair enough’” - Jim Jefferies, 2015
Seems like the obvious thing; take away the weapon. But in reality, events do not easily draw straight, unambiguous lines to progress.
So why do we hurt when we have laws against murder, against assault, against discrimination? If you ask someone what the worst crime in the world is, they probably would say murder and yet we see it happen still far too often - Sarah Everard, George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Asian hate crimes, queer and trans violence. Is this what 2021 looks like? It’s extremely difficult to grapple with and yet it is normalised.
It is normalised to a point where we aren’t even surprised when another Black person is killed by the police. I mean people are being killed by the people we thought were protecting us? In what world does that make sense? This is what Judge Gen was talking about. It is the the fact that awful things happen, that we as humans have decided are categorically and unarguably bad, and yet we are not left stunned. We are left accepting violence as normalcy.
It’s not all humans, and we know that. But just like it’s not all men, it’s still too many men; it’s still too many humans. And for most of us, we’re left perplexed, wondering what do we do now? What should we do? Is there anything we can do about the normalisation of hate?
I have written a little list of things you can do to ignite change. None of this stuff is groundbreaking or revolutionary in any manner, but it’s a starting point to not feel so helpless (if you do when you read the news). Because I have felt helpless and lost at times. Knowing that even though violence is not new, the normalisation of it makes me sick. And I’m also left feeling dazzled by Instagram activists and the pressure to know exactly how to handle global conflict and make meaningful change every single day (which is absolutely not a standard requirement and yet social media sometimes makes it one). It forces me to ask myself, whether I’m doing enough, whether me not posting one day makes me part of the problem - and these questions, by the way, are extremely loaded.
Loaded with implications and expectations. So with this little list, I hope it helps you as it has helped me mentally manage global events and plant the seeds for small moments of change.
1. Sieve through what you read carefully. Media is flooded with a surplus of information and oftentimes also fake news, which is misleading information presented as news. Find what’s true and what isn’t, don’t believe everything you read, check your sources.
2. Find your voice and find your opinion. Instagram and other social media platforms can sometimes create a lot of opinions for you, so decide what you believe in and what causes or social issues you care about. Make that your focus.
3. Don’t succumb to pressure. Nowadays everyone is expected to be an activist. Not re-posting or not speaking up on social media often deems your silence as ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ and you become ‘part of the problem’. But remember that social media is only one platform for change. We are not all influencers who use our online voice in the same way.
4. What other platforms can we use for change? Start with your close community by starting to change the narratives around you. If someone makes a joke about something you don’t believe in or is talking about something that isn’t true or is blatantly offensive, speak up! Ever since I started doing this, I started noticing a change with the people around me, and I’m having much more meaningful discussions now.
5. Find the balance! Amidst the multitude of negative, scary, global information, there is also good. There are uplifting stories out there that remind us that life is not only tainted with shame and slander, but something greater as well. For example,
The dancer aged 106 who bans the word ‘old': https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-57250509
Yemen fishermen find $1.5m of ambergris in the belly of a whale: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-57288265
Hope this helps.