on going from good hearts to good societies

Every day, and many times during it—no matter where I am or what I am doing—I think about the people who are suffering in places far removed from me: Gaza, Guantanamo, Sierra Leone (and many more), refugee camps in so many places, communities and cities and whole nations hardhit by violence and war and famine and disease and lack of access to basic necessities of life like health care and clean water and sufficient food or places to worship, play, and be. Presumably we all do this—thinking about so many who have not our privileges, no matter what else is going on, right?

I also give whatever I can pull together every single day to help those who are less well off than I am, too—even if it means doing without things that I need or want and sometimes doing that for good (as I have scaled down my lifestyle drastically over the last 15 years so that I can require less and thus give more)—and presumably everyone else is also doing this now, too, right?

And yet, still and ever it seems, the dogs of war and inequalities seem unleashed ever more deliberately every day. How does an individual or family make any real difference when we’re all doing it separately, coming together sometimes in groups for activism or joint organized efforts, but then going back onto our own little lanes on the treadmills that pass for life in industrialized nations? How can we break the commonest of our widespread patterns so that having more for ourselves is no longer a cultural value, and ensuring that ALL have enough to live good and meaningful lives becomes our highest societal aim? How do we make the shift from having good hearts to being good societies? (For all and not just a few.)