The Art of Not Caring

Rhetorically, does this sound like you? I used to think that the world would be a much better place if we all took the time to help each other more; there'd be more peace out there and more piece of mind in our communities. We'd all be working toward a common goal or all on the same page for the future or all sharing a united idea about where we wanted to be five, ten or twenty years from any given moment. I try to pay attention to the community attitude proffered in places that I visit, be it the sense of awareness for the immediate environment that I saw all around the streets of Lima, Peru, the dedication to public green-space found throughout the city of Auckland or the attention paid to recycling wherever one sets foot in Japan. Each of these communities have instilled an ideal in their citizens to uphold practices both for the benefit of society as a whole and the individual. It's social norm in these places that public spaces are clean, parks are open and available to all, batteries get sent to a reclamation factory in lieu of an incinerator. I think it goes beyond social norm in these places now though, its simply an ingrained part of how these societies work; sort of like washing your clothes, you separate lights from darks as a matter of course, not a matter of conscious. I'm not saying that this is wrong, I'm just curious what happened to the activists and fundamental change-mavens that brought their respective societies to this point? I don't think the entire population of Japan got up one morning and said, in unison, "Today is the day that we all will recycle. Everything."Nor do I think that the citizenry of Lima, Peru--from barrio dweller to bourgeois-- simultaneously took to the streets, broom in one hand and bag in the other, to dispel streets of rubbish, strewn leaves and whatever other unsavory there was to be found. These kinds of things take time to accomplish, there are minds to change and media to involve; there must be movers and shakers to light the fire, to see that things, once started, continue to be done. What happens, though, when what "needed to be done" takes on a life of its own? Where have the idealists that nurtured these ideas to completion gone? Ask most anyone and they will tell you a brief history of why they recycle, why they clean the streets or why there is so much green-space; prod deeper and you might get more of a history lesson; try to dig deeper though, and most people will shrug their shoulders and simply state that this is the way that it's always been, will always be. I've never been on the leading edge of any social or environmental movement; I shy from the light of anything political as a general rule, I'd rather watch from the edge of the forest as others assert their will over bulldozer and savage beast alike--I'm cautious that way I guess. It's not that I don't care, quite the contrary; it's just that what I truly care about, the hows and whys seem to get swept to the side, lacquered over and forgotten. I know that our forests are in peril, that we should be concerned about mercury in our fish, that too many plastic items are ending up in our landfills; I know the science and the reasoning, but what of the people that are involved, what of the process to this point? I ask a question, expecting a common, concise answer, but instead am given some sort of information about how things are progressing, what little amount of time we have to make a change or where we all went wrong; it's the equivalent, to me, of the collective shoulder shrug and the notion that it's just the way that it always was. The culture of caring is complete only when one masters the art of not caring I'd say. Very zen, more than a little true.

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