As a species, we have really come a long way. Our society has advanced beyond our wildest dreams. Since the 1800s, we have invented air travel, sent people to the moon, cured and eradicated a bunch of deadly diseases through medical advances and the discovery of germs, created widespread network connectivity and information free flow through the invention of the internet and cell phone networks, and so on.
That’s on the technological side. On the human side, we have outlawed slavery and human trafficking, developed the concept of human rights, started developing compassion towards other living beings, started recognizing (and legalizing) the LGBT community for their rights and equality, started developing the concept of women’s rights, and so on.
The advances on the technological side are pretty much a given and technology will continue to advance as long as there’s innovation. What’s not so obvious is the advancement of our humanity and the social side of the spectrum. These are a lot more non-obvious and they are also difficult topics most people would rather avoid, controversial stuff best left alone and ignore. Yet, I believe this is something important and should not be overlooked.
Think about life in the 1700s or 1800s when slaves were legal and basic human rights were still being developed. If you were born with dark skin color, there’s a high chance you lived a much harsher life compared to your peers born with a skin color several shades lighter. There’s also a higher chance that you were a slave, which is never a fun thing.
Do you think people in that era were open to talking about slavery, human rights, and discrimination? This is all controversial stuff back then but look at how far we’ve come. We’ve abolished slavery and that’s a huge milestone for us as human beings. We don’t see slavery as something controversial anymore, it’s a given that it should be abolished.
Now imagine all the social issues we still face. Discrimination of racial/ethical minorities, animal cruelty and promoting veganism, women’s rights, and the LGBT social movement. These are issues that we consider to be controversial, issues that not a lot of people are comfortable talking about. But if we don’t talk about these issues and understand them, how else are we going to resolve them?
The only way to resolve these issues is if more and more people started talking about them. When more and more people understand the issue, they will know what it’s like to be discriminated just because of skin color. They will empathize with how women all over the world were treated, they will understand what it’s like living as an LGBT and the constant difficulty in finding acceptance, and they will understand the cruelty in killing billions of farm animals every year just to satisfy our meat consumption demands.
The way to get people to start talking? Remove the feeling of taboo-ness and get people to care about such issues. It’s not easy and I don’t quite know how to do it but I think the first step is to educate ourselves. Know and understand the issues instead of ignoring them. Be aware of what’s going on and start asking the question. No, not at family dinners but have one-on-one conversations with others. Do it slowly, probe them a bit and gauge their initial response. Don’t rush, don’t try to convert people.
Plant the idea in other people’s head and plant lots of idea seeds around you. Most of them will not sprout but if you plant enough seeds, some will eventually sprout. And some of those sprouts will bloom and become a flower. Eventually, there will be enough flowers for society to change.
Recently, I find myself developing an interest in these controversial topics. It’s a problem that needs to be solved and the good news is, we are making progress, humanity is making progress. The world is becoming more and more understanding of such issues.
Like slavery in the 1800s, I believe that humanity will continue to evolve and one day, we will look back at all these issues the same way we look at slavery today. Issues with obvious answers, issues that only our primitive ancestors fought over, issues that humanity have long since overcome and surpassed.