Write to Change the World

communist-party-house

One of the things I have found to be true is that many people have a limited scope of experience with the world — more aptly, the many different “worlds” that exist within our society. Now, in no way do I claim to have experienced everything the world has to offer; far from it. However, I do believe I have a unique experience that merits sharing.

Growing up in the “city”, I was, as a child and adolescent, exposed to many things that most of the people I know were not. There are many who would call my neighborhood “unsafe”. Yes, there is the occasional break-in or theft and one of my good friends was held up for his bike when he was 10 years old. But a little bit of “insecurity” is a small price to pay for perspective.

In fact, in America we put such a high premium on security that sometimes it’s hard to imagine that the majority of the world (and even many people in our own country) live every day in fear. Fear that their children won’t be able to do any better than they could, fear that they might not be able to eat or feed their family and, yes, fear that they might die or be killed. These are the realities that many people live with on a daily basis, yet we often choose to ignore.

I was home-schooled (surprise!) until high school, which allowed me to read and read and read. Fortunately, I had parents who cared enough to teach me. Unfortunately, literacy is still the largest deciding factor in whether or not children will be successful, so much so that local governments could reasonably project prison budgets from third-grade reading scores — it’s that important. I, then, attended public high school. Yes, you heard that right: public (boogie, boogie) high school where I was, as a white male, a minority for, most likely, one of the only times in my life.

From there, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, the top school of its kind in the country. At Northwestern, I was surrounded by many very smart, driven, talented people who, for the most part, had one thing in common: they were decidedly well-off. It was a different world, for me — something I had, truly, never experienced before.

The thing that really impressed itself upon me is the gulf of experience between the rungs of society.  First, there is the issue of expectations and how a parent’s station in life and their prodding can, almost singlehandedly, determine that child’s aspirations in terms of schooling and education. And, then, it was the general lack-of-understanding of what it is like to live a different life than the one you’re given. This fact was even further impressed after I left school. I realized that many people do not “know” the realities of the world — not only in terms of economic inequality but inequality, in general. Put bluntly, this inherent difference in people’s lives is something no one can really understand. But we can try…and experience is, I believe, the best lens through which to view those things we do not know, ourselves.

I believe that inequality and the dearth of empathy (or sympathy) is the great disease that plagues our world. When will we be rid of it? The answer is both encouraging and disheartening. We could be rid of it next year…or tomorrow…or in the next moment if we would only step back and say “I’m like everyone else and everyone else is like me”. Alright, alright, we’re not all the same but, as humans, we all have the same desires: to be loved, to be treated fairly and with kindness, to be able to determine what our life will be and to have that same hope for our children. Yes, we are all different but, in the end, we really aren’t that different.

Am I arrogant to think that my experiences can help people (or help people to change their minds)? Maybe. But, I also think that many of us have valuable experiences to share, that each and every one of us have experienced something our fellow human beings have not. These are the things we need to share because if they are not known they cannot be understood and I believe a little bit of understanding can go a long way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nothing that hasn’t been written down has ever changed the world. So, write. Tell us about you. Regardless of how you do it — through prose, through poety, through journalism or through journaling — just write. And, who knows, maybe you’ll change some minds; maybe you’ll change the world.

As a note, I’ll be blogging on the Huffington Post about many of the issues surrounding inequality. I will continue to write about and share my fiction here but if you would like to hear some of my more political commentary, please feel free to follow me there, as well.

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2 thoughts on “Write to Change the World

  1. Jabril, this is a great message and something I think about a lot. I think having parents consistently teach me importance of empathy and learning, attending public school, and traveling to places like Gautemala and Peru have had a strong impact on me and shaped a world view that’s based on learning and understanding. And, sadly, I feel quite alone in this worldview.

    It’s amazing what would happen if people opened up more, traveled, and socialized with others outside of their family, friends and coworkers.

    I look forward to reading more.

  2. Yes I agree, our experiences shape our perceptive, but it is the institutionalized inequalities that permeate our society and perpetuate a master class which make up 10% of the US population, yet hold 80% all financial assets that have created the largest wealth disparity in the history of our country. Our social security system, which began during the Roosevelt Administration on August 14, 1935, is a now a safety net for all Americans who weren’t born into wealth, are disabled or are institutionally poor, and by that I mean, those layered in the fabric of our society, who provide valuable services to the top 20%, yet have not benefited from the wall street boom of the last 50 years. I’m talking about single working mothers, the 40 year old working at Wal-Mart with no health benefits and no retirement, the 57 year old, who lost everything when the plant closed and his $60 an hour job was moved to Indonesia, the under educated, and underemployed.
    Currently, we are told by a vast number of our pundits and politicians that the system is broke, unsustainable, and some among the Tea Party crowd, actually want to abolish the only thing a majority of our poor and disabled citizens rely on for their bare minimum subsistence. Under the current system, income is taxed up to $125,000 for social security. For those making more, and especially for those making significantly more, everything above $125k is not taxed! We could, as a society, easily shore up our social safety net by asking those who have benefited in the current economy from their hard work and ingenuity, and those born into wealth, to pay a sliding scale social security tax caped at say, for arguments sake, one million dollars. Ok so maybe they won’t by that 3rd vacation home, or a new car every year, but what’s more important for us a modern society, a new Porsche for the top 20% or helping to pay for a grandmothers heart medicine?

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