Bright lights now shine on the vulnerable sectors of society that have gone largely under-addressed in concrete, positive, enduring ways. (Zev Tiefenbach photo)

Column: What does it take to change the world?

Opening Our Eyes by Nan Dickie

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that our world is in deep trouble.

It has been in serious trouble for quite a while, but some of the hidden underbelly of our planet is now blatantly being exposed, partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are countless devastating stories about victims of the pandemic — those people who have experienced the disease itself, and those who are part of its unexpected consequences. The military, the media, watchdog groups, activists and individual citizens have brought these stories, these sad realities, to our attention. We must be grateful to them.

Each substantiated story brings up in each of us widespread emotions — from discomfort to anger, disgust to deep compassion.

One thing is sure: we can no longer deny we have had long-standing social, economic, mental health and other serious issues and inequities for decades. Bright lights are now shining on those weak, hidden and vulnerable sectors of society, those areas which have, to date, been largely under-addressed in concrete, positive, enduring ways.

This exposure is, perhaps, a positive, unexpected consequence of the pandemic, alongside the now blue skies over China.

We ask ourselves, what can be done about what we now know?

The first step is to acknowledge that these problems do exist, and will not go away on their own.

Read more: Column: Time of upheaval also an opportunity for positive change

Read more: Column: Distancing, not isolating, and handling our fears

Read more: Column: What we are now experiencing is grief

The groundswell of social unrest, and the media coverage of it, is providing necessary pressure to governments that are finally admitting to the seriousness of the issues. They say they are accountable, that the buck stops with them.

What will ensure that this acknowledgment and intention to act will continue after the pandemic is over, when we and our governments focus on some new normal way of living and operating? Will there be political will then to carry through with healing the many societal ills?

All our societal problems need to be understood in their entirety, which is difficult when there are so many “players” involved, including governments, policy analysts, social agencies, health authorities, charitable organizations, educational and other institutions and more.

Add to this mix the fact that many issues overlap – for instance racism, mental health issues, policing, inequity and poverty. Many layers, many structures, many systems.

Being faced with this harsh, current reality is very overwhelming, and one wonders where to turn.

What does it take to change the world?

Rosa Parks claimed that one person can change the world. She certainly did. And so have countless other courageous souls throughout history.

Perhaps it’s more feasible for the rest of us to know that “one and one and one add up.”

One good place to start would be to conscientiously explore and address our own personal values, attitudes, beliefs, preconceived notions. And proceed outwardly from there.

Nan Dickie is an author, speaker and former facilitator of a depression support group in Salmon Arm.

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