How do We Decide what to Fight for?


united-nations-general-assembly-dataIt’s a dynamic, volatile time to be young these days, and a lot more dynamic if you are living in the Middle East. So much is changing so fast and so much is happening around us that it requires an enormous amount of energy to keep up with it all.

Yet, as is the case whenever information gets too overwhelming, too diverse and even too complex for the limited amount of time that we have to partake in political life, we often feel obligated to leave the task of asking and answering the big questions for others, perhaps those we feel are more qualified to inform us about the most pressing issues affecting our lives at the moment. But while such an approach  may be beneficial in some other aspects of life; for instance, we have no problem buying a product simply because someone recommended it to us- saving us time and energy for a relatively minor decision; such an approach for larger, more important issues pertaining to the very fate and well-being of our societies is arbitrary at the least, and dangerous at most.

We may have mistakenly  come to believe that the very act of interest and involvement in political life is noble by itself. And to a certain extent, it is arguably more praiseworthy to be active than passive in an area that eventually comes to determine the course of our history. Yet, to accept that our participation alone relieves us of our social responsibility is a dangerous attitude that leaves the decision of where we ought to direct our energies and resources to whomever has the most power and motivation to do so.

In other words, if we leave the work of questioning and searching and ultimately deciding on what the most important issues to us are, we inadvertently leave this work up for others, who may not always know, or even want to know, what our best interests are.

But to answer such large questions require us not only to look at issues themselves- doing so will leave us staring at an overwhelming amount of issues, all of which may seem equally legitimate and urgent- but rather to find and establish the most fundamental values and beliefs that underlie the very foundations of our identities, our societies, and our vision of what constitutes a “better life”.

And yet again, to merely establish such values will only be of theoretical and practical usefulness if those values are shared by people of diverse ethnic, religious and other identity groups; and surely, to try to find values that truly transcend all those boundaries is a challenge that seems idealistic at best. Nevertheless, as we carefully observe our collective human history, with its immense diversity of cultures, philosophies, religions, arts and achievements, we are bound to find that underlying all of our most noble achievements, and behind our most powerful  acts of change and improvement, is a deeply held conviction in the inherent, inalienable dignity of the human person.

It is only by clearly and truthfully affirming this dignity of each and every person as the center of all our endeavors at improving human life that we can begin to take an active and effective role not only in fighting for our issues  but also, in deciding for ourselves, what is most worth fighting for.

Bruna Kesserwani is the Regional Director of Operations of the World Youth Alliance in the Middle East and North Africa.

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