Ask Jessandra

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Illustration by Marika Van de Kamp

Dear Jessandra,

Modern society is too complex. I want to be a responsible and engaged citizen, but I don’t feel like I’ll ever understand enough about politics and history to positively contribute to the informed, collective decision making democracy requires. If I watch Netflix while the world burns instead, am I a bad person?

Your friend,

Ben Lazy

Dear Ben,

If I said watching Netflix with all your free time and ignoring the world around you made you a bad person, that would be letting you off the hook WAY too easily. How many times have you, and I and every other person allowed ourselves to slip into complacency by telling ourselves we’re not good enough to make a difference? Too many times, Ben! Too many.

This is a very complicated subject, and everyone is different. If you’re asking me the meaning of life, all I can really do is hand you a mirror and a journal. What is the responsibility of one person, in exchange for all that person has received and consumed? Allow me to hand you a mirror and a journal. What’s the use of attempting anything, when we’re all just going to die anyway? Once again, mirror and a journal. Is anyone really informed enough to contribute positively to democracy? Is democracy the reason why the world is burning? Am I a bad person?

I wouldn’t trust someone who claims to have all the answers. Some questions don’t seem to have decisive answers. But see? Isn’t it better to take the play-dough out and squeeze it than it would be to leave it in the tube? (I won’t make a joke about watching The Tube since Netflix is online.)

Here’s the thing, Ben. Nobody is perfect. Nobody can change or fix everything. However, everyone has the ability and responsibility to help change or fix something. Instead of focusing on what isn’t possible, focus on what is possible and attainable.

If you’re currently stuck on the couch, how about starting with some Netflix documentaries? Personally, when I get bogged down with self-doubt and defeatist attitudes, it helps to learn about other people who have really made a difference, especially when it comes to issues of injustice and corruption. Positive change is not something that simply happens.

Do you ever think about why Black people aren’t openly segregated the way they were in the 20th century? Regular people made personal sacrifices, looked for new solutions and worked hard as a community to create change. Did the Little Rock Nine try to fix every single problem in the world at once? Of course not. They focused on the most pressing issue at hand and took it upon themselves to change it. Did the teenagers who made up the Little Rock Nine “understand enough about politics and history to positively contribute to the informed, collective decision making democracy requires?” They clearly knew enough, despite any doubts or concerns they may have felt at the time. Those nine students paved the way for decades of positive change to come.

I know shit gets overwhelming, dude! You’re not a bad person. Actually, your predicament is pretty normal. Instead of starting out with a mission to heal the world, start with the goal of healing yourself. The more you become able to recognize your own value, the easier it will be to see where your strengths, specialties and instincts are most useful. How can you help your local community? If you were a bad person, you wouldn’t be asking if it’s wrong to kill time. So practice killing less time! What are you good at? What do you like to do? How can you use those things to make a positive difference to someone, somewhere? Tomorrow’s a new day. Mirror and a journal.

You can do it!

Jessandra


DO YOU NEED ADVICE?

Jessandra would love to answer your questions about life, relationships, personal problems, or pretty much whatever! She may not be a professional, but at least she’ll tell you the truth. Send your requests for advice to [email protected] with the subject line “Jessandra” and hopefully she’ll get back to you soon!

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