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February 2009

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In an era of grand-scale movements and larger-than-life media, it's hard to be an average citizen of the global community and still feel like you can make a difference. Not everyone has the resources or time to entrench themselves in Darfur or provide aid to any number of the other ailing areas worldwide.

As our world and understanding have expanded, so have our abilities to stick to more conventional methods of protest and change-making lessened. No longer can sit-ins and small-scale protests do the job - the media doesn't care about anything that doesn't involve death or huge view gain - and senators stopped personally reading their mail years ago.

The saving grace of the nation's bleeding hearts has been the increasing dependence of our global society on technology - specifically the internet - and its ability to spread awareness. I get alerts about crises around the world from Amnesty International, the UN Foundation, Congress.org (just to name a few) on a daily and sometimes twice-daily basis.

Communication through e-mail and internet advertising has done more than it's possible to imagine for human rights struggles worldwide. Turn on your computer and you can't help but read about the crisis in Chad, or about displacement in Palestine. At the same time though, one must consider the effect of such tactics on our response to these tragedies. Evidenced by the blame we place on the media for making us numb to violence and sex, we are also becoming numb to genocide, to oppression, to death.

yes, there are those of us who still care - and a great deal at that - but in a time where being eco-friendly is the biggest trend, it's hard to believe the rest of the world won't quickly shuffle over to the next biggest thing in the months to come. Unfortunately, the laundry list of problems doesn't exactly give one hope for the future of our planet. But that's not the intent. What you need o take away is that there can be no improvement or real change without a recognition of the faults of the previous and existing systems.

Rather than giving up, it is no our responsibility to use our newfound awareness to get up and do something. Sign those petitions, write to your congressman, sure, but also try to branch out more.

Educate. As long as humans have the ability to speak, face-to-face communication with someone will remain the best way to relay information. Cater to their emotions in a a way that makes the subject applicable to them, reach people on their level, don't preach at them.

Act. If you can't give large sums of money, time is your next bet. Volunteer at the local chapter of whatever organization you're interested in supporting. Make phone calls to congressmen. Do something that helps someone else.

Make an impact. If you're going to march, sit-in, picket, or what have you, don't do it at a time that's convenient for you and for those around you. Leaving your house at two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon won't call as much attention as walking out of class in the middle of the period. If you are truly passionate about something, the loss (monetary or otherwise) will be more than worth it when you get at least one more person to take notice.

So what does this mean for you? I would hope at this point that it's pretty self-evident. If it's not, I leave you with this: whether we caused them or not, the problems we face are being heaped upon our generation, one-by-one. It is our responsibility to make the impossible possible by forgetting ourselves for once in our privileged lives and stepping beyond our comfort zone, making a real sacrifice for those things we believe in.