Edit Desk: Why one plus one equals much more than two

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We seem to be blaming a lot on “society” lately. I remember learning that many teachers in high school cooed at the sight of that word when used to describe the essential theme of an essay— the crux of a philosophical question or the rationale for some outdated historical process. 

You know what, though? I think it’s about time we start taking a look at what we even mean when we just regurgitate “society” into our writing or snotty verbal analysis. 

Because when you really boil down the generality that is society, you go from a macrocosm of people to a microcosm: the individual…you. 

When we study problems such as perpetuated body image through social media, giving to the homeless or even slimming the divide between political parties, one often believes that it takes a whole lot of effort and energy to create any substantial change. 

I agree. But the problem lies in the exclusivity and apathy that comes along with a philosophy that only takes into account the masses. 

If you really think about it — trust me, it’ll be worth it — a group effort begins with a single person instigating the change. Another person follows. And another after that. Each person in this chain of events plays a significant role in creating not just a ripple effect, but a whole wave of change. 

Sam Barney-Gibbs

Essentially, without each individual energy, which we see as a quasi-effectless action, we wouldn’t have had such sweeping progress as the abolition of slavery and segregation, a global women’s march movement, mass blood drives, successful fundraisers and even the prospect of a future without a crushing pandemic. 

In no way am I attempting to make insignificant the effects of the group mentality or downplay the efficacy of teamwork. However, I find that if we continue to ignore the obvious yet overlooked power of the individual, then we will lose our motivation to enact change. 

In his book, “The Life You Can Save,” Peter Singer analyzes the woes of foreign aid and assistance in addition to just the general concept of giving. He delves deep into psychology, biology and politics in order to explain why we do what we do—or rather don’t do what we should. 

Thus far, the point that has stuck with me the strongest is the concept that, based on a study, people are more willing to give more when their impact is seen as significantly improving the life of a singular entity in need. Whereas if general statistics are given about a marginalized group, they are less likely to be moved. 

First off, ew; I can’t believe our human psyches are so exclusive and picky. 

But more importantly, Singer brings up a solid argument for me (thanks, buddy) as to why we need to be more self-centered. 

What I mean by this is not to picture ourselves on a pedestal or a bright light shining upon us in the center of a crowded room. What we need to do is reflect internally, at only ourselves, to motivate more frequent and truly impactful action in charity and change making. 

Once we individually work toward being our better selves for our communities and even as global citizens, we innately create a seemingly infinite system of worldly achievements. I challenge you to be a catalyst for this philosophical cause with very real-world effects. 

One person donating their riches to international charity, one person spending their expertise teaching underprivileged youth and one person running for office to upend a broken system equates a rippling of the same for people around them. 

That’s right. I’ve redefined math: one plus one equals a whole lot more than just two.

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