People often say that they want to make a difference in the world. Just that simple phrase makes them look big-hearted, philanthropic, and human. But I wonder what people mean exactly when they say they want to make a difference.
Do they simply mean that they want to change the world in some way? As long as they do something, they cannot not make a difference. However small and negligible the effects of one’s actions may be, they contribute something to the mass calculus of individual actions. In that sense, people always make some difference whatever they do. But I don’t think that’s what people mean when they say that magic phrase.
Do they mean that they want to make a world into a better place? But better in what way? For whom? They talk as if there’s a way to make the world into an objectively better place for everyone. But I doubt that. Most actions are double-edged, I think. Someone loses as a result of the action of another. If there is an action that makes things better without anyone losing out as a result, it is probably very rare and seldom effective in large scale.
Everything is so damn cliched, even the way we dream. People just say they want to make a difference without really thinking what that even means. If “making a difference in the world” means anything, it probably means “doing what one believes is the right thing to do”. And there’s no one “right thing”; it all depends on what you believe is right. So even to dream properly, you have to struggle to figure out what you think is important and right. It’s not enough to hide behind a vague notion of making a difference and feel smug about your big-heartedness.