Earlier today I read two comments online reflecting on what is important. Everyone has different priorities and different passions. I agree with one of the posts that the dress color phenomena is not as important as addressing world hunger. But I find it harder to make distinctions between the other social justice issues as in the other comment reflecting that the situation in Nepal is more important than transgender rights. We need to make priorities. But one of the benefits of having different people in the world with different passions is that we can pursue our goals while others pursue theirs and help each other along the way. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the outright difference between two issues and that the priority we’ve assigned one doesn’t make sense. Jon Stewart did this recently in calling attention to the media coverage of the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner while there was arguably more important news in Baltimore that they should have been covering.
On the other hand, I think it is a benefit to live in a world where we have all of these things and a variety of priorities. If I thought world hunger (which is a priority issue for me) could be solved or solved better or quicker by abandoning working on all the other social justice issues, then I’d be the first to advocate for doing so, but I actually think that social justice issues are interconnected. We need people working on all of them.
And we need full lives. The hierarchy of needs reveals something for some people (it is culture based and doesn’t resonate as much for some people outside Western capitalist mentalities). However, these needs are much more likely to be interrelated. We see this all the time in the amazing compassion of people who have so little. When someone is hungry one could argue that they need love and a purpose in life just as much as (perhaps more than?) someone who has full nourishment. We need weird distractions on Facebook and time to make silly faces with kids because these form the basis of art and human interaction. The argument has been made before by people more eloquent than I that we need the arts and humanities because they give our lives meaning. We need science and engineering and math to make breakthroughs for us and those are critical and essential too. We can’t give up either. Nor are the distinctions as rigid as some would like to believe. We need our ultimate priorities for making the world better and for taking care of our loved ones, but then we also need our time to take a break from our zealous pursuit of those passions. We need to work toward the appropriate balance to know when to pursue and when to pause for our own health and the health of our passions and our world. I encourage you to be unapologetic about what is important to you. Let us all sing our song for justice and call each other to mutual support. Each of us does not have the bandwidth to lead every initiative, but together we can lend a hand to each other. It often takes very little to make an important difference in someone else’s life and work. Together we can do amazing things.