Idealism and action

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I have always wondered about the cynics in life, the ones who probably once dreamt and allowed their intellect to get in the way of changing the world for good.

So I had a very fulfilling and soulful lunch meet up with a dear old friend who is currently an academic in the beloved field of History in NUS, Edgar, and I must say I always do enjoy the engaging discussions and discourse about life, the hand of politics on volunteerism and social ventures, doing good and everything else under the sun. That was when the issue of the feel good factor, or, as dear Edgar would like to put it, the masturbatory effect, kicks in when communities that propagate and celebrate the great works of one another in the field of volunteerism and social venture come together to congratulate one another once too often through expensive platforms and money making events, and lose focus of the issues at hand, than delving deeper into the passions they had in making a change (if they even ever really had in the first place). Then there are also those who intellectualize everything about doing good in the world that their brilliant brains get the better of them and they choose not to do anything at all as a result. I am glad that despite his brilliant mind and understanding of how certain good that people attempt to do does not really solve problems at the core, dear Edgar still does it anyway, relentless. One example being the distribution of groceries and daily food items to old folks’ homes as a one off event, a few times in a year. A drive he is very involved in planing and executing with youths. On deeper thought, just delivering food in a day does not really solve the core of the problem of need in the homes, but at least a balm is being applied to the sore, Yes, I do agree that there are arguments aplenty about why we should treat the cause than the symptoms when it comes to community work, but if everyone merely intellectualize things, all that talking and writing would get us nowhere in the world. When Chih Peng made a call to his friends on Facebook to join him in distributing less costly masks around the Jurong East neighbourhood, I had my reservations about whether the cheap (non N95) masks would do any good in the haze but I still chose to go down and support his efforts nonetheless and tried to value add by contributing some bottles of herbal tea to distribute alongside the masks as well. Yes, we had limited time and limited resources, but sometimes all one has to do is to take the step to do first, in spite of limitations, and can only be a hopeless romantic in believing that the action would ignite more towards action and call to arms. Good hearts must always be supported.

As Edgar and I went on to delve into the issue of how one person can or cannot change the world, it proved thought provoking that, though I believed in the need for many one leaders that others would follow in the good steps so that one can truly change the world, we cannot deny the history of the world of how strong leadership and charisma had led us to disaster several a moment in time before also. So one person can change the world, but does it mean the world has to be careful who they choose to follow in order to lead the world to damnation or redemption? Is it truly human nature sometimes that most would start with good intentions but when greed and money comes into the equation and charitable initiatives get corporatised into huge charitable organizations, the inevitable is that these initiatives will lose focus and monies will be pumped into excesses that do not contribute to making the world better but instead to fatter pockets of the super rich?

Sometimes I wish I knew the answers and that the world could collectively believe in community effort and the need for stewardship and sustainable practices for food sources but I guess before I get lost too deeply in such thought needlessly, I should not lose sight of the need to just try and do first, keep believing, keep doing. Thank you Edgar, for the exchanges over a good lunch.

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