Something Bigger

Acts of violence and unexpected terror attacks like those that have taken place in the last few weeks inevitably send fearful shock waves through our nervous systems.

I can list a number of incidents, classified as either domestic or international acts of terror, that have taken place in recent years in the “Free World”… London, Manchester, Sandyhook, Madrid, Orlando, Charleston, Sydney, Boston, Brussels, Normandy, Quebec (and unfortunately the actual number of incidents goes well beyond the short list I’ve jotted down here).

What concerns me and many others is the fact that a number of the perpetrators of these acts of terror are young people like us. People who were either born or raised in cultures where peace, freedom and opportunity are very much part of the fabric of the society that surrounded them.

Australia has often been called the ‘Lucky Country’ and the US touted as the “Land of the Free” but why is it that these countries and the values they espouse seem to have left so many of us dissatisfied? What is pushing us to go elsewhere to find that sense of meaning and self-giving?

I think every person has a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

For whatever reasons this week I was thinking about the late US president John F Kennedy. He was the youngest person to be elected president in US history at the age of 43 and he successfully led his country through a period of prosperity and hardship during the short time he was in office.

In his inaugural speech he said: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Amazing words that undoubtedly inspired a generation of people young and old.

But sometimes I wonder if the values of freedom, prosperity and opportunity Kennedy had spoken about back in the 1960s has hyper-evolved to become something excessively individualistic in the 21st century, snuffing out that sense of a hope and idealism that used to be shared amongst people of a particular place, region or country. 

For many people today the notion of ‘doing something for your country’ sounds a bit archaic (unless you want to join the armed forces) and doesn’t fit in with the big scheme of our globalised world.

In a culture where virtually anything can be customised according to personal likes and preferences, and where achievement, power and freedom become more about self-promotion above anything and anyone else, is it surprising that the sense of being part of something bigger gets lost along the way?

Are nations not encouraging people to dream big dreams that go beyond personal achievement and success, leaving young people in particular to feel disengaged and unsatisfied with their lot in life if they don’t ‘make the cut’?

It’s heartbreaking to see young people choose to be a part of something bigger that is undeniably destructive; where the lives of loved ones are destroyed and the hurt and anguish is unbearable for those left behind with the aftermath of these tragic acts of hate and violence.

I wish I could convince more people to look around them and see that there is so much that they can give that can build up the world around them if they wanted to. 

I actually don’t doubt that many people choose these paths because, in their minds, they see them as being right or just causes. 

Had other people not shown them alternatives or other outlets to channel their passions??

I wish I had all the answers and solutions… but I don’t.

SO… that’s why I want to encourage anyone who reads this to see what they could do to build up the world and the people around them.

I believe it will make a positive and real difference.

Be a part of something bigger.

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