Opinion | Forgetting ‘first world problems’: we should respect our opportunities, responsibilities
If the Shew Fits
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 02:10
I often find my inner conscious complaining about things. I complain to myself about how much work I have to do, about how little sleep I get, about how cold I am walking to class, about how much money I spend at bars Uptown on the weekend.
I internally complain when mundane things go wrong, like when it suddenly monsoons and I forget my umbrella or when I forget the cookies in the oven and ruin perfectly good deliciousness.
But lately, I’ve tried to stop doing that, and I’m going to ask you to do the same. I’ve realized that all this complaining takes up way too much of my time and energy, and more importantly, is pathetically self-centered.
We, as Americans, as able-bodied and able-minded people at a school of higher learning, have nothing to genuinely complain about. Yes, things happen. We have bad days. But I ask that we expand our perspective to understand that on even our bad days, we’re so incredibly blessed.
Take the past week for example. You may have a few things to complain about that happened last week. Maybe you had a lot of midterms. Maybe you had a hangnail. Maybe you didn’t get tickets to Barstool Blackout. But look at what also happened last week:
On Tuesday, when you were fretting over your strenuous exam week and lack of time to get to the Rec, 25 people were killed at a Nigerian college over a school election, according to The New York Times. Also on Tuesday, 36 people died in a boat collision in Hong Kong, according to BBC.
On Thursday, when you were watching everyone else dressed in neon raving at Brick Street, sad that you didn’t get to partake in the strobe light festivities, 180 people were killed in Homs, Syria in the “worst shelling in months,” according to BBC. On this same day, FBI personnel arrived in Benghazi to investigate the assassination of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stephens and three U.S. marines in September, according to CNN.
I’m not mentioning these events to point out only the negative things that occur in the world. Amazing, ordinary people do amazing things every day of every week.
However, I think we often forget, in our comfortable rooms in our (sometimes) quiet college town that a lot of people in the world have much bigger issues than what bar to go to on Friday or what class to take next semester, and handle them with much more grace.
The facts I just mentioned are not merely words and numbers, but they’re people. They’re people that are no longer on this earth due to circumstances outside their control. We seem desensitized to this kind of information because it happens all the time; people die, wars are fought.
I’m not asking anyone to become an activist. I’m not even asking anyone to stop complaining about things in their life. What I am asking is for everyone to think a bit more about what they have, rather than what they don’t.
I’m asking for everyone to learn a little more about the rest of the world, to better understand how incredibly blessed we all are to have been born in a country where we can speak freely and vote.
We are not hungry. We are not cold or unsheltered. We have people in our lives who care about us, and laws that protect us.
With these freedoms, in my opinion, comes a responsibility. With them comes a responsibility to know about what’s going on beyond ourselves, to care about people who were not blessed with the same liberties and opportunities as we were. So please, follow the news.
Learn about what people in Syria, Uganda, Tibet and countless other places across the world go through on a daily basis.
Watch documentaries on these places; find pictures. Be able to envision them, so they aren’t just an abstract concept or name but an actual, visible location. Think about the articles and statistics you read not in terms of letters and numbers, but in terms of people: real, living beings with thoughts, dreams and beliefs.
Please, think about places and people in this way rather than the dry way they’re presented in news stories. Understand that as citizens of a major world power, we must care about how our country affects the rest of the world. We should know how our policies, laws and politicians intend to interact with these populations and places.
We should participate in our democracy. Most importantly, we should be exceptionally, incessantly grateful, rather than critical. We should be grateful to have a democracy in which to participate, to have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.