Throughout my life I’ve stayed silent too many times. I think many of us feel this way. We see injustices, indiscretions, and unfairnesses going on around us all the time. Our own inability or lack of action lead us to neglect to get involved. Some call it apathy, which I’ve come to know as a conditioned response to mass social stimulus. It happens though, and I believe we all experience it.
In the meantime, the planet’s health is waning. Our growing poverty reeks of indifference. Wars rage on without public attention to their consequences. Politics is filled with corruption. Its like this everywhere, not just one neighborhood, city, country, or society either.
The answer to all these challenges is simple. Its for you to get engaged. YOU. Not because you have to, but because you really want to. That’s what Jewish-American author Elie Wiesel challenged us with by calling us towards the reality of this world: Claiming neutrality is apathy enacted on a social level. Today, the United States has a neutral position towards racial segregation and poverty. This does no favor to people of different races or economic statuses. Instead, it promotes passive hatred. The same is true in any apathy-oriented response to another individual, community, society, or part of the world.
Just a year before Wiesel made his statement while accepting a Nobel Prize, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire wrote that, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” As if elaborating on a formula, both men provide a clear pathway for each of us towards an engaged life.
It begins with you. Stand up and declare who you are, what you stand for, what you stand against, and what matters most to you in life right now. This is the pathway to social engagement.