Why Don't We Care?

In the past, wars, injustice and environmental disasters spurred generations into action. The Vietnam War protests, the Civil Rights movement and the anti-whaling movement are all strong examples of large groups of young people mobilising for issues they cared about. However, I think it’s fair to say that our generation has much less to be proud of, and social media – or more specifically Facebook – may be to blame. Instead of scrolling through the daily news or using our internet or phone data to educate ourselves and find out about what’s happening in the world, we are instead urgently scrolling through our Newsfeed, hooked on the lives of our ‘friends’, many of whom we probably haven’t spoken to in years.

More information is available in the world than ever before, yet we seem to be obsessed with letting our brain cells rot as we Facebook stalk insteadof maybe listening to the lecture that we’re currently sitting in or taking a look at what’s actually going on away from the screen. And there’s no better time than the present to start examining the world we live in, as developments that we should not agree with are taking place right in front of our closed eyes.

Last year, the Abbott government cut spending to tertiary education, the disability ministry and foreign aid. We no longer have a minister for science. The minister for women, Mr Abbott himself, is surely a joke.14,000 government jobs have been cut, heavily impacting indigenous and graduate recruitment, for which many ANU students were hoping to apply. Recently, the ABC network has come under harsh criticism from Mr Abbott for not being on Australia’s ‘side’. This coming from the same man who said in March 2013 ‘The important thing is to have a robust free press … and if a certain amount of that involves being disrespectful towards the authority, so be it.’ (Well spoken Mr Abbott, we couldn’t agree with you
more.)

We have barely batted an eyelid over these recent government actions, and the government has us exactly where it wants us: in comfortable apathy, occasionally liking a group on Facebook, sharing the rare post from left-wing media and putting our names down on virtual petitions that don’t affect politicians in the slightest. Unfortunately, it’s time to admit to ourselves: NOTHING IS CHANGING. The spell that social media has cast over us, and has us obsessed with what our acquaintances have been eating or wearing, is dangerous. We can now communicate with almost everyone we know, anywhere in the world, from the comfort of our bed. So why would we possibly want to get up, get dressed and go out to standup for something?One huge factor in our apparent inability to act or care, especially in the international sphere, perhaps arises from the fact that these days we are constantly subjected to – and are aware of – the horrors that occur in our world to such an extent that we become overwhelmed. Subsequently, we shut off, leading to a pervasive desensitisation towards the tragedies that fall upon those that aren’t lucky enough to be born into the First World.

Every night, for almost three years now, the Syrian Civil War has appeared on the news. We know about the 1.8 million refugees fleeing the country, the constant fighting between the rebels and the government and we recognise President Bashar al-Asaad’s photo, we may even follow him on Instagram (syrianpresidency). Yet, these images of the Syrian people, covered in dust and blood, surrounded by skeletons of buildings that used to be their city, have become faceless and even, dare I say it, ‘old news’.

We seem to be incapable of empathising with our fellow human beings, despite being more connected to them than before thanks to the forces of globalisation. Our fellow ‘global villagers’ are left in limbo and forgotten as other stories overtake them on the six o’clock news. Their horrible experiences take place in a completely different world to ours, one in which ‘goodies and baddies,’ as our Prime Minister described it, are left to sort out their own conflict.

Perhaps that’s the crux of the issue: we cannot empathise because it’s all so alien. But there could be another reason, one that makes us the ‘baddies’ in this situation: we don’t want to care. Looking at horrible war-torn images is hard, and if you let it, it stirs up emotions that make us, simply put, angry and sad. Isn’t it so much easier to base all of our news around people that come from the same socio-economic background as us so that we have a shared understanding of how our world works? Isn’t it 100 times more relaxing to open your Newsfeed and not feel any First World guilt as you scroll down through edited photos and pointless statuses?

Maybe it’s time to stop being comfortable. Maybe it’s time to stop ignoring the plight of millions of humans from all around the world. The Syrian War is just one example; there are hundreds of others. From renewed violence in Southern Sudan that has led to 3.7 million people in need of food, to the 4 million people displaced in the Philippines following a massive typhoon in November, to the 14,415 asylum seekers that arrived in Australia last year.

These human beings are the victims of a world lottery. They were not born in the Western world, and worse, the majority of the Western world doesn’t even know they exist. Our daily trials and tribulations consist of academic deadlines, alcohol consumption and time management of work and study. We’ve become lazy in our comfort zones, and often learning about new issues that crop up every day has become a tiring chore as we continue to fight our human instincts and block out those damned feelings.

Before we set out trying to tackle these huge problems, we need to look at changing our own attitudes and realising our own potential. We need to start caring about something, and where better to start than something that directly affects us, that we should theoretically have a say in, and that represents us on an international level: our Government’s policies.

If you have ever felt betrayed and angered by the Government’s policies on marriage equality, asylum seekers, tertiary education, women, taxation, foreign aid, welfare, climate change, equal work for equal pay, indigenous communities, Australians suffering from disabilities, media control, or the decision to not bail out SPC-Ardmona (Australia’s last fruit-packaging company that brings you those delicious Goulburn Valley fruit cups), keep reading.

On the 17th of March, we have a chance to voice our discontent. The March in March is a protest movement happening all around Australia, ending in Canberra on Monday March 17th at Parliament House. It’s marketed as ‘Australians uniting for a better government’ and a ‘Vote of No Confidence in the Abbott Government’. It’s time to show the government, and ourselves, that we are not apathetic. For too long we have been placated by a screen in front of us, like a dummy used to quiet a crying baby, instead of taking a step back and fighting for what we believe. This is our country, and we have loud voices. I dare you to show up on the 17th of March to fight for tertiary education. I dare you to fight for marriage equality and women’s rights. I dare you to get out of bed and fight for something that you care about.
Prove to yourself that maybe, you can make a difference (or at least give
Tony a bit of a headache and a bad day).

It’s time to start caring.