This week, I discuss local issues, why they are elevated, and how to prevent yourself from obsessing over faraway matters.
Table of Contents
- What are Local Issues?
- Why Shouldn’t We Elevate Local Issues?
- You are limited in your time, energy, and resources
- All problems are nuanced and are best solved by those closest to the problem, i.e. the local community
- The more problems we try to solve, the more we dilute the effectiveness of our actions
- Why Do We Elevate Local Issues?
- What About Those Who Have No Power?
- Avoid Elevating Local Issues by Focusing on Virtuous Yourself
What Are Local Issues?
Local problems involve a particular group of people with clear connections and geographical proximity. These problems affect a small group of individuals and can only be resolved by that group.
Admittedly, the line of what is or is not “local” is not entirely obvious. However, familial, individual, township, and similar problems are “local.” For example, gang violence in a city is a local issue. A farmer a few thousand miles away cannot resolve the issue or provide useful commentary. The residents of that city are responsible for fixing the gang violence, not the farmer.
People gain little value when we pretend a local issue should be elevated and made the responsibility of outsiders.
Why Shouldn’t We Elevate Local Issues?
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Secondly, all problems are nuanced. For example, in a domestic violence case, we may view the issue as a simple “husband bad, wife victim.” But there may be more to the story. Maybe he is the victim, and she is the abuser. Perhaps one partner has created a spiraling toxic environment. Or the media has sensationalized the story.
Simply put, outsiders cannot grasp the nuances of the domestic violence case. Therefore, the couple’s community will have more knowledge of and respect for those involved. Thus, the community, not outsiders, needs to work on resolving the local issue.
Lastly, when we try to solve every local issue, we get to the point where we can’t offer anything substantial. For example, I can tweet about my disdain for domestic violence or racism, but what have I accomplished? The wife-beater isn’t going to stop because a stranger told him no. He stops when his wife says no, the neighborhood police arrest him, and his community shuns him. That’s when he stops.
Why Do We Elevate Local Issues?
Weak individuals are incapable of processing life’s more significant truths: we all have to die, life requires a virtuous struggle to have meaning, comfort always breeds contempt, and so forth. Therefore, they distract themselves by focusing on issues they cannot directly solve.
For example, when I obsess over gang violence in a city hundreds of miles away, I distract myself from the homelessness problem in my community. It’s easier to express care for the residents of a far-off city to who I have no responsibility or loyalty than it is to divert my resources to those suffering in my backyard.
What About Those Who Have No Power?
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens
There are communities where individuals suffer: countries under totalitarian regimes, housewives abused by husbands where the community remains quiet, decrepit towns without the internal strength to improve, and so forth.
However, as hard as it is to accept, you can’t save everyone. All individuals are limited in their influence and power. When we try to have a sweeping change, primarily through governmental intervention, we always end up worse than we started.
Additionally, there are trade-offs. If I’m helping strangers from far away, then I’m diverting my time, energy, and resources away from those closest to me. Money spent over there is money not invested over here. Time spent traveling to other locales is time not spent with my children or friends. And so on.
If we feel compelled to help others far away, we limit our help to monetary contributions to trusted charities. Furthermore, we need to remain quiet when we help others instead of moralizing.
I will say that community is not restricted to geography. You can assist a loved sibling who is studying abroad for a few months. My criticism is toward valuing strangers instead of working towards helping those closest to you.
Avoid Elevating Local Issues by Focusing on Your Virtuous Yourself
Ignoring other local issues isn’t a call for apathy but a call for prioritization.
Individualism is about the individual because only individuals act and reason. There is no collective brain. If you gain muscles, no one else within your tribe gains muscle. Only your life is under your control. Luckily, when you focus on improving your life, you will inevitably improve the lives of others.
So start by taking stock of the problems you see around you, especially within your own life. What can you do to solve them? What can you do to lessen your suffering and the suffering of others?
From there, keep note of the broader issues that bother you. Are you troubled by domestic violence? Then, seek how you can ensure your relationship and the relationships around you are healthy. Take these more significant issues and localize them to your situation.
If you direct yourself towards resolving problems within your life and the lives of your neighbors, you will improve the world. Why? Because the world is made of individuals. When individuals are healthier and better, the world as a whole becomes healthier and better.
Do not focus on resolving abstract issues such as hunger in faraway places you barely see or visit. Instead, you can solve the trauma in your family or prevent your friends from self-destructing. Start locally, and soon you will see a million ways you’ve made everything that much better.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan
- What is a significant issue in your life? What are you doing to resolve it?
- What are significant problems in the lives of your loved ones? How are you helping them resolve these issues?
- What are the societal problems you care about? Personally, I’m moved by homelessness and hunger. Where in your life can you alleviate the pain others feel as it pertains to the problems you are passionate about solving.
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.