Modern Problems: Trying to Conquer the World Before Mastering the Self
All too often we see others lying in wait, like a predator waiting for their prey to get a little too comfortable, so that they can pounce on their every slip up and mistake. Whether it be discussing politics, gender, homosexual rights, the Superbowl, our favorite cereal brands... pitiably, I can accurately say when it comes to any topic of discussion there are many individuals going over every word with a fine tooth comb, their mouths watering with spiteful and bitter anticipation, looking for the chance to sink the sharp, shredding teeth of performative cruelty into you. The sadistic pleasure we find in pointing out the faults of others publicly is something I find repulsive, yet it is something that must be discussed publicly. Most importantly we must discuss why we, the royal we, are the biggest contributor to the problem and the first step to solving it.
Recognizing the Problem
The first step to solving all the social issues we face as an interconnected society is recognizing the inherent problem. That inherent problem, though it is a tough and bitter pill to swallow, is you and no amount or volume of argument to the contrary will change this fact. You are not the problem because you aren't doing enough for your community, nor because you lack the financial well-being and social stature to bring about positive progressive change in the world. The reason you are the problem is much more simple than anything so grandiose as your lack of being an influencer or person of power.
You have too much time on your hands, and not enough of it is being spent on self-improvement. Personal development may seem like it is too simple of a first step, that with every new opinion you form you are also developing yourself into a better and more efficient human being so there is no need to make yourself any more of a focus; I'm here to tell you that you couldn't be more ignorant and wrong. My opinions on all topics change close to every thirty seconds, I never stop thinking of new perspectives and grinding those perspectives down to the basest of emotions and premises. Not a single second I spend on my own opinions, evolving and refining them, makes one bit of difference in solving the overarching social problems I am surrounded by.
You may be unable to understand why changing your opinions means nothing in the face of our current social issues, it is understandable why you would think that way because opinions are a huge part of the issues forming to begin with. It is because your, and the opinions of others, are worth next to nothing and needn't be expressed. It is not logical, nor safe, functioning under the principle that all opinions have inherent value and that expressing your opinions is important. Looking at the current social climate it is well within the realm of expectation for every opinion that gets expressed that there will be one-hundred solutions for it and innumerable amounts of arguments against it. Most individuals can reach the conclusion that their opinions, and the opinions of others, are absolutely worthless on a macro and objective scale; these individuals are also capable of accepting that they are the issue. The previously mentioned individuals have recognized the problem and are ready to change themselves, and the entire world as a result, for the better.
Counteracting the Problem
Focusing only on your own self-betterment sounds selfish, and I assure you that you are not wrong in any capacity. Objectively, I am telling you to be extremely selfish and focus only on yourself. Selfishness has so many negative connotations, and I hate it that it can't be viewed in a more positive light without some serious exploration of semantics. If you've made it this far in your reading I think it is safe to assume you are willing to hear me out, however, and I promise you won't be disappointed. I'm not asking for evil people to be selfish, they already are and that is more than apparent if you've been conscious of the world around you for more than five minutes, I'm reaching out to the selfless and asking them to be selfish. The notion in and of itself seems absurd, but let's break it down a bit.
Selfless people are inherently interested in the betterment of the world, performing actions of great value for others while neglecting their own desires. Looking back at all the saints, missionaries, and philanthropists throughout history this becomes self evident and I needn't explain more. What would it look like if they held the contradictory stance of being both selfless and selfish? If your goals and desires are centered around making the world a better place, providing for the poor and all that rose-colored jibber jabber, then wouldn't it be good for everyone if all you cared about was your own profit and pleasure? I'd venture to say that would be the case.
Now just because selfless people are good-natured at heart, and being selfish would provide more benefit to others than the selfless person themselves, that doesn't mean they are beyond needing self-improvement.
Whether you be the pure-of-heart, selfless soul or the selfish individual whose desires being fulfilled would mean everyone else benefiting, you always need to be developing yourself. You don't need to develop your redeemable traits, those should stay where they are and stand staunch against what it is you need to correct; what it is you need to correct is your self-discipline. Doesn't matter if it be your health, financial situation, attitude, attire, and/or opinions it is up to you to be more disciplined in these areas so that others cannot attack you for them as they so often do. Myself, I get attacked frequently for my weight and diction. The most popular insults coming towards me are always that I am fat, insensitive, and insecure. All of these are true, and it contributes to the social issues around me if I am not seeking to change them because if I just gave up and fought back verbally, trying to force people to accept me, then I am creating more social issues.
To put all this concisely: In order to counteract the problem, you must counteract the problem. We have established that the problem is you and no amount of argument will change that. In counteracting the problem, focusing on self-betterment and being more selfish, we spread less and less of the very social problems we would like to see corrected and eventually eliminated completely. Keeping yourself busy with your own selfish desires, taking each piece of the problem one step at a time, prevents you from contributing to the seemingly never-ending waterfall of social issues. Look at it this way, though, every piece of you that gets corrected and every excuse you don't make is another drop of that waterfall evaporating so as never to be seen again. Stay disciplined, and you have already done one-hundred percent more than the majority of the world.
Do you find your opinions on social issues to be more progressive than the opinions of your peers?
You've Mastered the Micro, Now to the Macro
So you've mastered yourself and you're ready to take on all the issues of the world, eh? Then you've missed the entire point of this article, but I admire your confidence nonetheless and will speculate on the next steps after solving the biggest problem. If I were in such a place where I felt I had become the ideal human, able to take on all the societal issues we face today and could drop hard-hitting, irrefutable, fact-based advice on everyone who'd dare stand against me... I'd keep going. Chances are high that, after mastering myself, I am now sitting high and mighty with my hands in the dirt planting some vegetables in a community garden, then shaking the hand of the land developer I just contracted to put up my newest community center endeavor....
I'm an ignorant fool with no place to be discussing the bigger picture, or even the smaller picture for that matter. At this current juncture I am nowhere near ready to even speculate and trying to humor those who would is difficult for me to find palatable. Taking into account where I stand now, to anyone who feels they have mastered themselves I say this: Go back to the beginning, and reassess the problem. Go from there.
My only hope is to instill the desire for a more constructive relationship between us and everything around us. Yet here I sit at the end of this, feeling as if I've only contributed more to the problems.