1 Aug 2012

Re: "No hope for the world"

Well this is going to be interesting!

This is a first for both me and for another blogger, because I'm actually replying to her blog post. And I'm certain she hasn't had a long post response before. For some reason I've been getting these urges to write more on my blog lately, so in a way this is also a way to curb the cravings. This is totally not just a way to boost traffic to my site by associating my blog with a relatively more popular one. Totally.

As for the post in question (which I suggest you read the relevant content within if you hadn't already come from there), it's not merely just a senseless rant about how the world sucks as you might imply from the title, because there are good points in there that don't reflect well about human behaviour. And if people who have the power to make a difference are screwed up, how could you expect the world to survive much longer, let alone become a utopia?

Now I'm not disagreeing with her on all counts, because it's totally a fact that the world must end eventually. What I'm suggesting is that the fate of humans may not be so bleak as to expect apocalypse within the millenium, let alone the century. So here's my little dose of optimism, saying that the world isn't really that doomed.

(This sounds really weird when closely compared to my own cynicism in the previous post)

So if you think that there are many conflicts and world problems going on right now, you're not wrong. There are many issues that we're facing as a human race. As to whether things are constantly getting worse, I wouldn't be so quick to conclude that; perhaps we may actually be handling things well as a whole. The likely reason why more people are complaining about the world's problems is due to increasing awareness. With improved technology and education, more of the richer countries' population know about the plights of the various disadvantaged groups. I don't think back in older times, people in China or Australia would have been aware of, let alone do anything to deal with Christopher Columbus' ruthless eviction of the native Americans. So it's likely that there were just as many, maybe even more, problems back then compared to what we face now, just that very few people knew about the world's problems in the past.

It's not wrong to say that governments have had trouble reaching a consensus, let alone implement policies that could help alleviate the burdens of the disadvantaged people. Especially in such a tightly interconnected world now, any government decision could have widespread effects that may not only cause unintended effects on other people, but could affect the amount of political influence they have. So why not help the most unfortunate people, like the starving poverty-stricken Africans or Indian villagers? That'd surely help narrow the opportunity and income gap, whilst boosting the popularity of the government by a lot! Problem is that many governments nowadays don't get complete say in how to use their budget, with democracy on the rise and the silent majority gradually becoming more outspoken. Selfish as it is, a government's purpose is to look after its own country's people, because that's what the people voted for. So there are restrictions imposed by the people... and that's not including the refusal of some other governments to allow foreign aid by setting up lots of red tape.

That doesn't mean people can't do anything to at least prevent things from getting worse too quickly. From the social activist to the common layman to the scientist and engineer, you don't always need the government to play Superman to those in need. If you feel such a need to get down and do something, you can go ahead! It's all the more possible with improved transport and technology compared to earlier times when you only had ships and carriages. However, usually the government can still help things progress more quickly if only they lend a small portion of budget towards such endeavors. A few small groups of people can only do so much. But with the growing popularity of social activism and the improving ease of public funding for such projects, governments around the world just might be pressured into giving a helping hand more often.

Speaking of activism, it is pointed out that there has been a spreading phenomenon of "slactivism" — the show of support for certain causes by doing things that seem pretty disconnected from the causes themselves. Protesting against child abuse by changing profile pictures to cartoons? Putting up status updates of bra sizes to help in the fight against breast cancer? Attend a concert to show your concern for the environment? It's too irresistible, to put in so little effort and yet get the feeling you're making an important difference. Well in a way you are showing support and spreading awareness about the cause, and that's nothing to sneeze at. It's when people think that that's all they have to do to win the battle that's the problem.

Especially for an event like Hair For Hope.

The whole point of the event is to let childhood cancer patients in Singapore know that the rest of us understand the ordeal you have to go through, and to show our support to them, for instance by experiencing the same condition of losing hair. Although shaving heads isn't supposed to be the main thing of this whole event. It's not supposed to be a platform for some kids to bear their head in order to boost their appeal to others for personal gain. This event shouldn't be mocked by participants who think it'll be a conversation starter when people see their bald heads! If they were really sincere about supporting cancer patients, why don't they go all out and participate in other events or even do some related volunteer work? That would be the most direct way of giving strength.

HOWEVER... this in no way puts down the usefulness of such events. At least it's getting people aware of issues close to them and encouraging some altruistic behaviour. In the case of Hair For Hope, at least the donations are being put to good use. And the Children's Cancer Foundation also helps organise other related activities in conjunction with other non-profit organisations, so there are other channels from which they can garner support. The problem here is not the event itself but the mindset of some people joining in the event.

Still, even with superficial motives like boosting popularity, at least those particular people find good ways to do it rather than other methods that could have been much worse...

...like perhaps resorting to violence?

It was a traditional way to settle disputes in the past, and it still exists in this modern age. The difference between then and now is, once again, the degree of interconnectedness; a war during the medieval times wouldn't have caused as much widespread damage as it would in today's world. So with some countries showing off military prowess and developing potentially dangerous technology, things get tense pretty fast.

But I don't think anybody dares to actually push the big red button and deploy a nuclear missile onto a rival country. The world has already gained so much in terms of wealth and infrastructure and living standards; it'd be stupid for anybody to wipe all of that out with one weapon. However, no one's willing to risk even that tiny possibility that somebody would be crazy enough to do just that. And that's why so many people have been heavily advocating to get rid of nuclear weapons once and for all, to eliminate that microscopic but dangerous possibility. (That doesn't mean no nuclear technology for the sake of alternative energy though since that's a peaceful use)

So really, if anybody's pursuing nuclear war technology, it's just a show-off of power and infrastructure more than anything else. The mere presence of a threat is enough to get the world leaders' attention. Actually using the weapon would just undo all that power over those leaders, making them switch to the offensive to prevent the same fate from repeating all over the world. And I doubt a country leader would really want to rule over such a war-stricken world in this age.

...unless he's insane.

In conclusion, although there are signs around us that indicate that the world is far from perfect, and maybe approaching intolerable, there is still plenty of hope that our demise wouldn't happen so soon.  The situation might be overhyped, and even then there are people out there who are willing to champion causes that would benefit society. And if there are ill-intentioned people out there who seek power in the world, it's unlikely they'd want to destroy the whole world in the process.

And if there are people who actually want to destroy the world... they have mental issues. That's the problem of doctors and medicine.

If there's something else that wants to destroy the world, it's likely very powerful and probably hard to negotiate with, so that's out of our hands.

Also, there's nothing wrong with supporting good causes, but what we'd like to see is more active and direct contributions. We know you mean well, so where's the harm in going a few extra miles to help in what you believe in? Volunteer work, donation of funds, maybe even devoting time and resources to research and development of relevant technology that could permanently improve the situation. Likes and retweets aren't nearly enough.

The human race is actually pretty hardy, and we tend to undervalue that. Even through disease, through recessions, and through war, humans have bounced back from devastating setbacks. And we can repeat the comebacks again in the future. Yes, humans have throughout history proven that not everybody learns from mistakes, but we are certainly good at recovering from mistakes too!

Life may not always be rainbows, but that doesn't mean we can't make our own!