This article compares volunteerism and political activism
, ways of helping individuals and of changing society. This section particularly caught my interest:
Our critical social problems demand both individual and structural solutions. To rely on volunteer efforts is to duck the basic issue of common responsibility, and to ignore the fact that individual crises often result from collective forces.
That is, the disaster of American economy becomes personal when it costs you your house, your pension, your job ... or maybe just that there are several empty houses on your street now, and that's undercutting the value of the house you're still lucky enough to have. The disaster of American medical industry becomes personal when you can't afford care ... or when a friend can't, and you wonder if a half-treated ailment that's gone on for weeks maybe contributed to their lack of patience that blew up into an argument. The disaster of American politics becomes personal when your rights are ignored because of the color of your skin, or your perceived sexual orientation, or your religion ... or when someone you need a favor from is too exhausted from dealing with that stress to have any energy left to help you.
Remember, it's not just you. It's not just your friends, your neighbors, your relatives. There are patterns
out there impacting vast numbers of people in ways that make life a little or a lot more miserable for everyone. No matter how lucky you are personally, and how safe you seem right now, those patterns do affect you because you're living in the same society with those who are directly crushed by them. The wider and worse those patterns get, the more they will cost you and the harder they will be to fix. So look for the sources of the problems, not just the victims. Think about how problems can be prevented, not just cleaned up after.