First World Concerns vs. Real World Problems

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So, an article about Kickstarter in our local free paper was brought to my attention the other day:

If you don’t want to read it all, I’ll sum it up: crowdfunding is revolutionizing everything, and the digital world of the internet is shaping the analog world we all live in more than ever. This is some pretty exciting stuff, and something I’ve been following closely over the years as it develops. It really does promise to revolutionize entertainment, at least on the level of removing studios from the equation.

Let me focus your attention on one paragraph of that article a moment: “But the game seems to have been changed with the Veronica Mars movie project by director Rob Thomas. It raised more than $5 million, leading some people to question whether the introduction of “big fish” like this will crowd out smaller projects.” Five million US dollars.  About half of which was raised in one weekend. To film a fan movie for a tv series canceled several years ago.

Listening to the radio this morning, the on-air personalities (whom I adore, mind you) are spending most of their time talking about trivialities like celebrity pregnancies and sports doping. A tiny portion of airtime mentions international conflict and natural disasters. As a nation, we’ve been more focused on the few dozen killed by tornadoes—or the staged massacre that happened on Game of Thrones this last week—while completely ignoring the few thousand children abroad that have died in the last week from diarrhea and starvation.

I’ll say this up front: I spend more and more time each week going through my inbox, signing online petitions and tweeting about Monsanto, social security, gay marriage rights, the Keystone pipeline, and protecting rare snails in Southern Utah that are in danger of losing their habitat to coal and gas mining rights. I do in fact feel these things are important, at least in the long run. As a species, we’re a runaway train when it comes to environmental impact, and as a human being I feel all human beings deserve the same rights and freedoms. That’s my own personal stance.

I spend less time focusing on the developing world and the sheer scale of horror that comes with the death toll from something as simple and unglamorous as toilets, sewage, and drinking water. I sign petitions about those as well—things like ending child slavery in India and getting medical supplies to people in Africa and Pakistan. But far, far less of them come across my virtual desk. And I am someone who spends more than half his work week focused on a WASH charity…


How can an average American even comprehend what poverty stricken people on the other side of the world are facing? We can’t. Human beings can only focus on the tragedy and injustices put before them. We’ve said for decades that the internet has revolutionized the world. That it’s brought us all closer together and made the world a global village, where we can talk to someone on the other side of the planet in real time who feels the same way we might about freedom, religion, love, and elevating ourselves as a species out of the mire. I still believe this is true.

But one thing the internet has definitely done is split the human race into two simple camps: those who are online and partaking in this glorious revolution—and those who are not. Those who are worried about reality television, fantasy sports teams, finding new recipes on Pinterest—and those who are simply struggling to find a little food and clean drinking water for their sick child. Who are struggling just to survive devastating illnesses. Guess which camp is bigger? And which one has all the money?

So while here in the First World—or the Flush & Plumbed World, if I may quote Rose George—we can easily raise two million dollars to make a movie or fund a music concert tour, we can’t raise a few thousand to help end the plagues and death toll of the Other World. Do you have any idea how much SUM1 could do with $5 million USD?! Take a look at the front page of Kickstarter or Indiegogo, and you’ll see projects up for a few days that have already raised thousands of dollars. But dig down to the charity fundraising projects like ours that are working to end hunger or poverty or infant mortality, and they’re struggling to make a few hundred.

I’ll tell you one thing, this modern life of ours has really mixed up our priorities. All this isn’t meant to make you feel bad. Please don’t read it as an attack. I love the internet. I consider myself a netizen more than I do a US citizen. And I’ll still play Candy Crush to kill the time and watch Game of Thrones every week. I’m not asking anyone else to stop. I just want those reading this to open your eyes to the real horror that people in the Other World are facing.

And if you’re one of the few over there in that world who can read this blog, know that the hearts and minds of those at SUM1 are with you.

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