One Saturday evening, I settled down to watch Elysium, a 2013 sci-fi movie. In the film the year was 2159, and the wealthiest had decamped to a luxurious space station orbiting the Earth, leaving behind all its wretched inhabitants to survive in a diseased, polluted and over-populated planet. That future nightmare so disturbingly resembled our world of radically separated human societies who just don’t care! The film increased my resolve to commit to the #DareToCare challenge that the Teens4Unity and Youth for a United World are promoting worldwide.
The DareToCare project was launched last June. Life had already gone totally online, with Zoom and other social media platforms providing a lifeline to stay connected and try to understand why the whole world was sick. Risa D’Souza, a 14-year-old from Mumbai, was part of a team who presented this ambitious project, part of a six-year plan called Pathways for a United World.
Drawing from the challenges facing today’s world, each year this project focuses on a different aspect of human and social life, sparking action, collaboration and projects in a worldwide network based on fraternity and reciprocity. Through Pathways for a United World, young people try to help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and stop climate change by 2030. This year the project proposes to place the model of “Caring” at the heart of politics.
“Care must become a way of life,” was the central message at its launch. It was given the colour black to signify that politics and active citizenship can serve as a background to sustain all the endeavours which colour our lives. “Care is emotive participation, because there is no good care without emotive and affective involvement,” said Elena Pulcini, Professor of Social Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Florence in Italy when interviewed at the launch. “We must try to respond with care to the illnesses of our society, and this means educating democracy, taking pleasure in caring, offering it with gratification, not constraint.”
The #DareToCare challenge seeks to shift care out of the few restricted spheres to which it has been confined for centuries and encourage everyone to see themselves as a caring subject. We can care in our family, in our profession, when meeting the marginalized poor in the street or when participating in sports or relaxing at the beach, everywhere.
Three steps form the #DareToCare Pathway: LEARN, ACT, SHARE.
LEARN: Since June 2020 several online webinars have been streamed on YouTube, interviewing lecturers, diplomats, politicians, environmentalists and social activists to help lay solid foundations to active citizenship. For example, the Youth for a United World of the Philippines hosted a Webalogue with experts to discuss politics on social media, the reality of fake news and misinformation as well as how to properly assess the truth of the variety of information one receives online. In the United States of America, the youth organised a webinar to assess how to face growing racism in their communities.
ACT: Around the globe, the young people went into action, involving people of every age and social background, identifying specific needs in their area and proposing practical “caring” initiatives.
In Bahia Blanca, Argentina, a very windy city, trees are planted regularly to form natural barriers against the constant wind, so that houses can be kept warmer in winter and are protected from the sun in summer. Last year, it was very difficult to plant trees given the current pandemic situation. A boy found out that a University was calling for volunteers to plant trees in pots, take care of them and then plant them in given places. He rounded up his neighbours to enrol in the project, and in a very short time the area was covered with trees, and people living there agreed to water them until they grew up well.
In Lebanon, the DareToCare youth were the first to go out and help after the explosion of 4 August 2020 that killed more than 178 people, left more than 6,500 injured and 300,000 people homeless. They went round cleaning up damaged houses, bringing food to those who were unable to leave their homes and prepared a survey to request and distribute financial aid.
In Melbourne, Australia, the staff of Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (YPRL) were given a list with the phone numbers of elderly library members. They contacted thousands of senior citizens to provide information about their local community, to help them access library resources from home and to reduce social isolation during the pandemic. One of the library members wrote: “Thank you for helping a 93-year-old lady like me download my first eBook to my phone”.
Individual actions are part of the project, too. In Alberta, Canada, Rene Blais purchased a truckload of fresh-cut flowers and had it delivered to an old people’s home.
In India, Deepchand is a hospital attendant, an unsung hero, who pays attention and takes personal interest in patients’ relatives since the doctors and nurses are too busy to stop to talk.
SHARE: The Youth for a United World call these initiatives “pills of hope” and they keep posting them on social media to show how, even in this difficult context, solidarity continues to be contagious. Mitali D’Souza, an Odissi dancer from Mumbai, shared her experience of care in a video interview. She said that she conducts classes for students aged from 5 to 100, using dance as a medium to educate, entertain and enlighten, helping her students to make an experience of true happiness and acquire hope. Looking at reality with a view of care highlights how vulnerable we all are and how much we are responsible for each other, and now we see that care is emerging as a global ethical agenda.
Caring starts when one assumes responsibility. One area requiring everyone’s care is our eco-system, and it is of utmost importance to show inter-generational responsibility in its preservation, and show that we care for future generations. Today there are many such crises calling for our attention and care. The most urgent crisis now is the health crisis. Then there is the climate change: heat waves, floods, droughts, storms are all happening everywhere. A serious crisis broke out in all countries: a social one, and it is statistically proven that marginalised people suffered most from Covid-19, who generally live in contaminated zones, where the effects of climate change, too, are more severe and grave.
The temptation is to always say that these concerns are for big politicians and we can only do so much, so we do our “small part”, the small things in our daily lives and we feel satisfied. Instead we must have the courage to take an active role in the economic and political fields, as they are levers of the great change we need to heal our common home, and show together that we really dare to care.