I just came across an interesting series of articles from NewScientist called Blueprint for a better world and the thought struck me: what would it be like if everyone thought about what they needed to do to improve the world around them, how they could help the scores of people existing aroud them, rather than how they could improve themselves for the next project, the next career, the next life goal?
The features contained everything from pimping your house and getting tested to being nicer to people, but I’m talking about the motive behind implementing these changes – what if I thought about myself, about my skills and connections, in relation to how I could contribute to what’s outside of myself?
Could I work without the expectation of advancement, either personally or concerning my career?
Because even full-time volunteers have to feel pride towards their own accomplishments in the name of charity, feel rewarded with loads of self-satisfaction and outside appreciation for their work at times.
Is anything really entirely devoid of the self?
Now before you stop reading (I know you thought about it) let me elaborate in more practical (non-extremist) terms: relationship dynamics.
Relationships are give and take – I help and listen to you, you do the same for me. We enjoy each other’s company, have some common interests, and can supplement the other when our interests, contacts, networks, fields of expertise don’t overlap, and because of this understanding the relationship is mutually beneficial.
Well wait, you’re thinking – I don’t think of my relationships that way. That’s much to analytical, much more cold-hard-business than friendship.
Something as nonbusinesslike as enjoying the other’s company is what I would call a “good” that you don’t have on your own and therefore need a relationship for.
But what about parents and family members? I think that the same concept applies here as well, but it may be more on the self-satisfaction, sense of responsibility (insurance against future guilt), following personal morals and distant future investment that keeps these relationships intact.
This goes for volunteering, missions trips and any other “free work” scheme. We are selfish creatures. End of story.
So how does this help us? Have I just wasted half an hour of my life condemning mankind and rationalizing how we simply can’t help the fact that we think (consciously or subconsciously) that we’re at the center of the universe?
Absolutely not. This can most certainly be used to not only save our environment, but can work towards improving the types of societies we live in and improving the ties these societies have with each other regardless of geopgraphic seperation. (Yay internet!)
How? We simply use the fact that Gen Y (my generation, for all the haters out there) expects to get moral satisfaction out of their lives. We don’t just wish we were contributing to something greater than ourselves: we demand it, and the best way is through helping others, thinking of the world outside our personal bubbles.
Volunteering lends to opportunity to satisfy personal needs of making a difference, but they offer a variety of career options and (most attractively to me) to travel the world. Amnesty International, World Vision, Habitat For Humanity, the Peace Corps – you can go anywhere in the world if you have a mind to, and all in the name of philanthropy.
Also, philanthropy evokes the same feelings in us as sex, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. (Yes, I know Modite already posted this, but I swear I began writing before I saw it.) Oh yes.
We’re already volunteering – over 25% of US Citizens volunteered last year. Donations reached a record high of $314 billion in 2007 and have only dropped 2% in 2008, superb considering the economy.
My peers and I feel the crunch of centuries’-worth of environmental damage crying out for us to take immediate and forceful action. Increasing globalization as a result of cheaper travel fares and the geographically-blind internet force us to sit up and take notice of rights violations, poverty, disease and the lack of survival resources.
Pair these with our determination to get things done, take action rather than let someone else handle it, and you have a juggernaut force on your hands.
Yes, we tend to focus on ourselves, but we can use this, refocus upon what we believe in and make this world a better place. It’s not that other generations couldn’t, or even didn’t – we are simply motivated differently, and it is because of this we can change the world.