The hardline stories of growing up always bring me to tears. Although my experiences reflect more of the mundane in middle class white suburbia to their urban decay, I feel the pain and powerlessness of those neglected children. These emotional images swell up inside me, and inevitably become tears.
The recreated stories of disenfranchised urban poor children, so diametrically different from me on the outside, seems all to familiar on the inside. Once told, I, all too well, feel their violation – their intuitive desire to shut the feelings out – to hide through fantasy in a different, more perfect life – to survive. Driven by an unending fear, the shame and loneliness overwhelms, stymying any forward actions the damage child may want to take.
After such reads, I try to comprehend my voice, but pull back, comparing and judging my less dramatic circumstances. I wonder if my aptitude of empathy and compassion is only driven by my affluent guilt. When I remove those judgements from my feelings, and just feel someone else’s life’s pain, I can more rationally tell the story that would need telling – see the story more objectively. The opportunity to advocate then opens up, and I can more confidently move forward with my job to tell the story.
Posited to offer a means by which those who have the power to change the world will listen, I attempt to consider classroom activities that hopefully provides students the opportunity to comprehend the exact nature of the wrongs these disenfranchised people experienced; to accept that such circumstances, despite 21st century progressiveness, exist; and to encourage participation in more compassionate and meaningful acts to change the system that has allowed such harms to exist. Perhaps, in some slight way, advanced high schools should be ethical think tanks for a more progressive society. These school’s influential students, who are on the path to become influential adults, would take part in the dialectic discourse that questions not only the ethics of the system they are working towards joining, but the validity of that system in and of itself.
Unadulterated competition destroys bonds of compassion and empathy because by its nature the weak must be obliterated by the strong to perpetuate its place of power. All are become subjects to the system, which has no moral obligation. In Darwinian social norms, the strong survive and prosper over the dispensable weak. This thinking does not account for any real application of equality of condition in accessing opportunity. Although we have institutionally set out to undo the separate but equal mentality, we have not considered how defacto inequality persists. In fact, history clearly illustrates that defacto discrimination persists despite democratic legislative efforts to increase equal opportunities. Changing individual psychology is far more complex than changing and applying a law. Applying laws does not guarantee that practical reasoning will change.
Realism is a priori to the abstraction, and the abstraction applied is the best means to a broader utility. If we can know the problem of a minority disenfranchised group, then we can transform their parochial needs into a broader concept of societal needs, built upon compassionate, tempered competition, with more fair distribution of opportunity.
My life is fortunate, in that my journey has ventured to both spectrums of experience (privileged and disenfranchised). As I rose from the ashes of self-destruction, the rooms taught me to see how selflessness and empathy are the cornerstone of social interactions, and service to society, the central tenet of action. Here, usually, are misconceptions. I am not talking about service as giving a service based activity, but rather encompassing charity and fairness in all my actions, and always striving to bring out the best in any situation without increasing any disenfranchisement. Selflessness in one’s daily actions, whatever they may be, becomes primary, not institutional philanthropy.
So, I got pushed by the story, however contrived, that the sins of the father, are the sins essentially in society. So we must push forward, to undo harms, and find increasing compassionate efforts of inclusion.