When I checked in with family and friends on Facebook Stories a few days ago, I saw a beautiful sunset in Hawaii, a message about racism at the border of Ukraine and Poland, and an image of a golf resort in England set to relaxing music. It struck me that these three messages encapsulated the ongoing mixture of experiences of all my Facebook friends.
We all care about the war in Ukraine and we all try to express our concern, but we have our regular lives going on, too. We are all slicing our selves, and our moral standpoints, into many parts.
Recently, I posted this humorous image that was intended to draw attention to our dismay at rising gasoline prices. I thought it might raise a smile or two, resonate with some folks, and/or draw attention to the frustration of it all. Subsequently on my message feed were some memes indicating that it was inappropriate to worry about gas prices when we should be more concerned about the war in Ukraine.
It’s the “should” that bugs me. I resent being scolded by the implication that I should feel a certain way about Ukraine, or gasoline prices, or anything, really.
Currently there are a lot of things for us to care about, and support for Ukraine is certainly at the top of the list. But I can care about Ukraine and feel frustrated by rising gasoline prices, and at the same time be depressed by Alberta’s endless winter while celebrating my friends’ vacations. I want to be able to express all those things. It doesn’t mean that I feel they all matter equally in global or moral contexts. It just means I’m experiencing all those things at once.
Should any of us enjoy a vacation when people are dying? Of course we should. It would be hard to find a time when there is not war somewhere in the world, and impossible to find a time when there are no people dying.
Similarly, I can be frustrated by rising gasoline prices and, at the same time, be wiling to endure them knowing that this is a minor issue compared to the suffering of the people in Ukraine.
Most of us cannot do anything to affect, directly and personally, any major changes in the world. The only thing we can do is to indicate how much we care about particular issues. We cannot stop our lives, quit our jobs, ignore our responsibilities, and shift all our energies into the war in Ukraine. One or two people might be able to do that, but most of us have to care but then carry on with the day-to-day.
Carrying on means caring about multiple things and multiple people in multiple places in multiple ways. It’s confusing and emotionally exhausting, but it’s not a bad thing to be affected by a variety of unrelated concerns all at the same time.