There are many aphorisms along the lines of “it doesn’t matter what others think about you,” or “you need to live your life,” or “the only person that needs to like you is you.” These are mainly attempts to dissolve the plethora of self-doubt that comes from living in a society with so many people and so many expectations. It is natural for a person to be insecure, and over-analyze the intentions of others; however, such behaviors are often detrimental –sometimes fatal. Hence, such advices encourage us to avoid the rabbit hole of “why am I always wrong?”

Despite noble intentions, this attitude has a critical flaw: disengagement. Nowadays, we find it fashionable to be independent and no-strings-attached. It is cool to listen to songs that mope about one’s internal problems instead of debating politics or morality. It is common to find millennials frowning upon those who come together for the sake of justice or activism –mainly due to a disillusionment with the political process or a disbelief in the objectivity of ethics and truth; thanks post-modernism. Although understandable, I find such behaviors toxic and harmful. I think this attitude is a cop-out. It does matter what others think about you –even if they’re wrong! In order to successfully dispel the hurtful and unpleasant impressions others have of you, you must engage them and prove that they’re wrong. If they are right, then you either have a problem to fix or figure out whether the problem is even worth fixing. It is certainly not easy for one to stoically engage one’s problems. To some, it’s fatal. I do not wish for everyone to take part in such a stoic approach; I, instead, wish for more people to do so. As I’ve indicated already, there is a glut of disengaged and disillusioned millennials of whose help we are in dire need. [1]

On top of the psycho-political argument, one could also make a teleological argument for engagement: that the telos of a person consists of community and engagement. This means you have to engage others –those in your community, those who live far away, and even those you abhor. This means that engaging others is an essential part of who you are. One cannot recoil from the toils of meaningful engagement, for “a life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life.”[2] It mars our humanity to watch from a distance the political process that so significantly affects our lives, those with whom we share our community, and ultimately the onslaught of our enemies. The best way to fight our problems is to engage them: whether it is through negotiation, or battles. We cannot hide or run away, when the battlefield takes place on our home turf. We must engage.

[1] youth registration rates lowest ever recorded

[2] Martha Nussbaum

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