As I thought more about my last post I started to wonder whether my attack on “making a difference” might encourage resignation or paralysis in the face of “a world on fire.” Certainly, I observe a fair amount of resigned and/or paralysed nihilism in the attitudes and actions of those around me. Perhaps such persons have caught on more quickly to the problems with “making a difference” and have taken this realization to its natural (resigned) conclusions.
I think that there is probably some truth to this. People concerned with the world around them become disillusioned, because making that difference either seems so impossible and difficult (grabbing control and imposing difference) or else so trivial (buying fair trade). Or else they see the destructiveness in the kind of difference-making that focusses on possession and control, in its various manifestations. Not knowing where else to turn, they sink into resignation, apathy, and paralysis.
But, the root of this apathy comes prior to the recognition that making a difference may be exhausting, unethical, damaging, stupid, or trivial. For we start down this path as soon as making a difference becomes primary. It’s this initial move that entraps us into a logic that must make change or else. What if, instead of saying “yes, the world is fucked, now go make a difference,” we said “yes, the world is fucked, so go do some good work”? If we didn’t start with the importance of making a difference in the face of evil, then, it looks to me like this kind of resigned apathy would have no source or sustenance. On the other hand, the opportunity to do good work might just mobilize people to work for good in our world, including that good which requires dramatic change at a systemic level.