The importance of supporting worthy social causes has been a theme of dinner table conversations for centuries, and is well captured by the brooding revolutionary Scythrop in Nightmare Abbey. “Ardent spirits cannot but be dissatisfied with things as they are . . . they will rush to the extremes of either hope or despair”. And yet how rarely Scythrop leaves his tower.
It is easy to express correct sentiments. Enthusiasm for fashionable causes costs you nothing, and spoken in the right circles, can accrue considerable social capital. The platform par excellence for expressing progressive credentials, the internet, encourages risk-free, armchair activism.
Kierkegaard claimed that his age was characterized by reflection and curiosity. People took an interest in everything but were not committed to anything. He attributed this . . . failure to distinguish the important from the trivial to the Press.Hubert Dreyfus (1997)
The modern ‘browser’, as we know, has an even shorter attention span. In an age where triviality rules, ‘speaking out’ can be mistaken for actual action. How can individuals apply political pressure and make a real difference? Isn’t the point to transform sentiment into meaningful participation? What will stir us to act? Climate change? The fate of undocumented asylum seekers?
Finland is the mecca of the NGO, there are over 100 000 active associations. At the same time, young people are underrepresented in the volunteer sphere. How then, does one take the first step outside one’s comfort zone? Luckily, finding out about volunteer options has never been easier. Thanks to . . . you guessed it, the internet! But here is the catch . . . After Google is consulted, you will need to dial a phone number, or show up, in person, and in spirit!
At the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, students understand what the word ‘Applied’ means, and why it is capitalised. Project work in the Degree Programme of Social Sciences requires students to be active in forming partnerships with community organisations in order to contribute at a grass-roots level and exert influence more broadly. Examples from this year include work with paperless migrants, in collaboration with the Diaconess Institute.
Don’t let your fingers do all the talking.
- Diaconess Foundation. Get Involved. 2019. Accessed 16.11.2019. https://www.hdl.fi/en/get-involved/volunteers/
- Dreyfus, H. 1997. Kierkegaard and the Information Highway. University of California, Berkeley: Art, Technology and Culture Colloquium. Accessed 16.11.2019. https://goldberg.berkeley.edu/lecs/kierkegaard.html
- Kansalaisyhteiskunta. 2019. Accessed 16.11.2019. https://www.kansalaisyhteiskunta.fi/jarjestohakemisto/sosiaali-_ja_terveysyhdistykset
- Nightmare Abbey. 1818. Love Peacock, Thomas. Reprint. Hertfordshire, U.K: Wordsworth Editions, 1995.