I see a lot of good work being done, some of it even by my own hands, but when I step back and look at the state of altruism in America all I really see is band-aid solutions. Non-profits, activist groups, volunteer efforts — these are all good things that make life on earth a little less tarnished by suffering and injustice. But my question is not, How do we clean up some of the stains on human existence?, it’s, How do we fix this place?
And there aren’t any good answers right now. As I’m growing up, I’m seeing that thing happen that we always told ourselves we wouldn’t let happen to us: we’re getting so involved in our own day-to-day lives that if we can even find time for a mediocre, band-aid solution to a social ill we at least feel relieved that we’re contributing something. I see this in myself. I work for a non-profit, so at the end of the day I feel like I put in my due and I can waste away my free time however I choose.
This attitude is completely normal. But we’re seeing that our strategies for social change fall short and become mere band-aids because people don’t give enough. Non-profits could change the world if they were all properly funded. An army of dedicated and well-led volunteers could similarly fix everything.
But they won’t. We have to be ruthlessly pragmatic. We are not going to convince people to give and do more than they already are, especially when we struggle to even convince ourselves, so we need to find strategies that will be fully fueled by what people are already doing.