J500 Media and the Environment

What they taught me by Victor Vijayakirthi

Back in India in the late 80s, for a high school photography competition, I took pictures of the homeless and downtrodden and won a prize. Nothing more came of it but the germ of an idea was planted in my brain that exposing their plight shocked “polite society”, even in the India known for its social commentaries by the likes of Satyajit Ray.

Homeless in Chennai, my hometown

Years later, as I reflect on working with the Lawrence Community Shelter and with the Coalition of Homeless Concerns I can’t help thinking again about the homeless and their plight. I also can’t help comparing that to what my average day looks like, and noticing, with despair, the disconnect.

This experience has taught me a lot, from understanding some of the causes of homelessness, to acknowledging that this is not an abstract problem that cannot happen to me. It also helped me come to the realization that I can make a difference. It doesn’t take much – being a vocal advocate of the cause is a start. The project has given me the tools I need to do that more effectively. Following through on a commitment to do something tangible to help would be a good next step.

It also helped me refine my original definition of sustainability. A society that doesn’t care for the unfortunate, or take both preventive and remedial steps to tackle homelessness, poverty, social and mental issues, and, instead blames the victims, isn’t going to care much about the well being of any of its citizens in the long run. Such a society is not likely to remain sustainable.

I’m hoping I can apply what I learned to ensure I don’t allow ours to become such a society.

-Victor V


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