I’ve lived most of my life trying to see the good in everything. With a sense of pride, I don my rose-coloured glasses, celebrating the accomplishment that against all odds, I didn’t become jaded or cynical like other grown-ups.
It’s a promise I’ve made to myself several times. Never let the world harden me, never let the world turn me cold.
It sounds nice when I think about it, maybe even admirable. But if the past few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that this mindset is also dangerous.
You see, while trying my very best to see the good, I’ve also been purposely ignoring the bad. Something that many people do not have the privilege of doing.
I have seen poverty. In India, in particular, the image of a woman washing clothes in a dirty, murky puddle while a naked child stood beside her comes to mind. Yet when I think of India, this memory is not one I actively choose to remember. Instead, I focus on the good: look at how happy the children are, despite having nothing. Ignore the squalor; remember the splendid.
In my own backyard, I have seen people strung up on drugs. But Vancouver is so beautiful, I tell myself, look at the mountains, look at the ocean, look at Stanley Park!
I have found myself in the center of environmental issues: on beaches scattered with garbage, and plastic waste floating on lakes. Even remote deserts have not escaped the pollution of humans. But the anger and heartbreak I feel is momentary. Instead, I quickly look the other way, seeking the beauty that lies on the other side. Because there always is beauty there: golden sand, a stunning sunset, clear blue water…
The problem is that by looking away, I’ve once again, convinced myself that for every bad thing in this world, there are far more good and beautiful things.
A self-imposed sheltered existence and a privilege, I realize.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I don’t actively keep up with the news. Horrible pictures framed in tiny screens: a terrorist attack in New Zealand, another shooting in the United States, a plane crash in Ethiopia, tornadoes flattening neighborhoods, two-hundred and fifty people killed in a bombing.
Other problems too: dictatorship in North Korea, the loss of biodiversity, income inequality, the depletion of natural resources, protests in Hong Kong – and yes, racism.
More riots, more protests, more death.
Yet, for me, it has always been so easy to switch off. So easy to ignore all the horrible things happening and carry on with life as usual. The fact that I’ve been able to ignore the bad for this long only further accentuates what a place of privilege I come from.
In my everyday life, I can choose to avoid streets where homelessness and drug use are rife. I can choose to avoid the news if I don’t like what I see. I can even choose to donate in support of change, educate myself, read books, march in protests – all the while knowing that the closest I’ll ever be to the horrors some people in this world experience daily is behind my computer screen. I understand that I will never understand. But I stand.
In the words of J.R. R. Tolkien, There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
But I cannot – and will no longer – let my desire to see good overshadow the issues that need our attention.