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?