Friday, November 9, 2007


This has been bugging me since the middle of college, and I find that every time I hear about Congressional conflict or Pakistani strife or donate a dollar to a food service at the super market I'm reminded of it.

What is the goal at the end of social activism? What do we want the world to be like?

And don't you dare give me an answer that begins and ends with "equality" or "and end to hunger". Does equality mean we try to dissolve cultural differences? Does an end to hunger mean global Communism? I want to know what you really think the best possible world would be like.

For example, I was thinking about Heaven. People sometimes point out that Hell sounds much more interesting than Heaven. Eternity wihout conflict sounds very boring. Similarly, I wouldn't wish for a world without pain or strife, as those things are essential to understanding ourselves, and are valuable experiences.

But, if pain and suffering are valuable, why change the way things are?

Well, I think pain is valuable, but suffering less so. Something of an ideal world would be a place where we are free to have all sorts of experiences, all sorts, but there is always hope and the sense that they will not last forever (and indeed they would not). The tragedy of poverty is that it is so difficult to overcome. Starving children will die and not have a life. The cessation of suffering is the most important thing in the world, but the absence of any suffering is the absence of part of our human identity.

So, take any topic, be it racism, poverty, ignorance, boredome, consumerism, whatever, and try to imagine what you REALLY want the world to be like. When you say "I want to make a difference", what is it that you're striving toward.

What will the world look like when we decide we can stop trying to change it?


crazygrampastuey said...

I think that "TRYING" is the whole point of trying to change the world.

If, at any time, we suddenly decide that we've changed enough for the better and can stop is when we really need to re-examine the criteria we're using.

So to answer your second question of "what doe we want the world to be like" is this: BETTER.


It's not exactly an "achievable" goal, but it'not a futile one either because we achieve parts of it all the time.

And isn't there pain, suffering and conflict involved in that struggle to change the world for the better?

So your first & fourth questions are really moot because ideally, there shouldn't be an end to social activism.

Josh Leffler said...

yeah i've explained to you the basis for my respect for the intrinsic worth and dignity of man (imago dei).

therefore its worth spending myself to improve the lot of others, because they are worth it.

also i think the way God has designed mankind to work is for everyone to selflessly give:

Acts 2:42-45 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

its like communism but arising from unity that isn't state enforced and joy that can't come from government.

i think that when people want to do things like "make the world better" its good, because people are worth it intrinsically and its ultimately how mankind is designed to work - helping each other.

Nico said...

I like Josh's point about innate value; of humans made in the image of God, thus having value through that - though, it may be interesting to try and legitimize innate value for humans without the help/guidance of what God says.

Is it possible? It's more difficult, but I think it is feasible. The answer is more anthropological.

I think it would then be an extension of the human instinct of self-preservation. In this case, "self" would have to be extended to a group, or "selves." A person belonging to a group can be concerned for the group's well-being as an extension of self-preservation in the case of families, friends, societies, and in the case of social activism, the entire human race. Where stagnation is detrimental, furthering and improving the human race is a survival tactic. And this supports Stuart's point: social activism isn't a means to an end - it's an end in itself.