Tag Archives: People

Satisfying Social Conscience

by Lillian Csernica on September 23, 2013

It’s taken me longer to get to this post than I had intended because I discovered I had to more research into the concept of the social conscience.  I was trained to start any debatable subject with a definition of terms, so let’s look at a few:

1) “a knowledge or understanding of what is morally right in a society” from the MacMillan Dictionary.

2) “an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society” from Dictionary.com

3) “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society” from Oxford Dictionaries

There appears to be general agreement about the precise nature of what the social conscience is.  How does one exercise one’s social conscience?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — ““Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Stephanie Coontz, U.S. social historian — “… what’s been building since the 1980’s is a new kind of social Darwinism that blames poverty and crime and the crisis of our youth on a breakdown of the family. That’s what will last after this flurry on family values.”

George Orwell — “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Katharine Hepburn — “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

Stephen Covey — “Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

Abigail Adams — “How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.”

Looks to me like my research boils down to two points:

The social conscience is the awareness of the needs of others and the ability to recognize when those needs are not being met.

A healthy, active, responsible social conscience compels us to take action, to work for change, to improve the conditions of those members of society who are in need.

So how do we as artists, creators, and (in my case) writers satisfy the awareness conveyed to us by our social conscience?  How do we take action to improve society?

Here’s my brainstorm.  We can go for big changes, we can go for little changes, we can go for whatever action we’re able to take.  When somebody needs our help, when those who have no voice need someone to speak for them, that’s when those of us who work with words can step up and take action.

Volunteer at your local library.

Teach a free class to school age kids on the power of keeping a journal or writing a short story.

Write Op-Ed pieces on the issues that matter to you, that affect your family, your neighborhood, your city, etc.  Take it on at whatever level you can handle, and then grow your efforts from there.

Write for those special niche markets where your personal experience will be invaluable.  Mine is a special needs family, so I can speak to issue that affect parents and caregivers and school authorities and service agencies and of course the special needs people themselves.

When we write our stories and our novels, this is the time to write what we know.  By that I mean the needs we have recognized in society that are not being met.  I know the city of Santa Cruz has the brass-balled gall to charge for parking in handicapped parking spaces in the concrete parking structure down near Pacific Avenue.  We have the license plates for the handicapped on our van.  My mother has a handicapped placard.  Most of Michael’s classmates have either the plates or the placard.

If we can do nothing else, we can get the word out.  We who write can send our messages alerting people to the needs we see.  We can point the finger at the people who should be taking action, by virtue of their paychecks and/or duly elected offices.  We can make these needs known in as many languages as possible, so people know we see them and hear them and recognize their needs or protest their failures to get help to the needy.  SPEAK UP, PEOPLE!  If you’ve been given the talent and the skill to use your words with power, then do it!  Create your beautiful and complex worlds, write your dramatic and poignant stories, blow people’s minds with your visions of how the world is and how it could be.

Edmund Burke said it best: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So what’s it going to be, people?  Are we going to get out there and do whatever we can do, or are we going to let our social conscience atrophy for lack of use?

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

Helping Hands

by Lillian Csernica on May 8, 2013


Day 8: A piece of advice you have for others. Anything at all.

Here’s a news flash:  I’ve been dead.  That’s right, stone cold roadkill.  On a night in late August, 1987, I died in a car accident.  I was out in the middle of nowhere at 11:30 p.m.  Two strangers, a LVN and an Air Force Paramedic, happened to be driving by.  They resuscitated me and kept me going until the ambulance could arrive from thirty miles away.  You can call it luck or you can call it Fate, but I’m content to call it the kindness of two strangers who jumped right in when they saw I needed help.

Around Christmastime the newspapers like to run stories about “angels” who have appeared right when people needed help, then vanished just as suddenly.  These “angels” look like ordinary people who happen to know what needs to be known or can do whatever needs to be done.  Whether or not those people really are angels is beside the point.  Being there when people need you and giving whatever help you can provide, that’s what matters.

I live in the mountains.  It gets really dark at night on the highway under the redwoods.  One night my husband, my older son, and I were driving home along the highway when I saw a face come out of the darkness and flash past.  I told my husband and we stopped.  Sure enough, three college-age boys had gone hiking and gotten lost.  They couldn’t find their car before night fell, and now they had no idea where they were.  My husband told them to keep walking south.  He’d take me and our son home (Michael was in a car seat then), then he’d come back for the three boys.  I sent a care package of peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and drinks with my husband.  Later he told me the boys fell on the food with all kinds of thanks.  They’d been hiking for hours and were really hungry.  My husband took them to their car, and they went on their way.

I could tell you more stories of people I’ve helped and people who’ve been there to help me.  I’m sure you have some stories of your own.  You’ll understand when I say this is the best piece of advice I’ve been given, and the best one I could give:

Life is short.

Be kind to everybody.

We never know how far one act of kindness can reach.  It can be enough to get somebody through a really bad day at work.  It can even be enough to change the mind of someone who’s contemplating suicide.  So next time, when you see that young mother with her two or three little kids struggling to get them and her cart  through the check-out line, let her go first.  Maybe help unload her cart while she manages the kids.  Hold the door for the elderly man who’s on his way in.  Smile when you happen to meet the glance of a stranger.  It doesn’t take much, folks.  And it can make our world so much better for all of us.

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Filed under Blog challenges, Depression, Family, Special needs, Writing

Y is for Your Truth

by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2013

Speak your truth. Tell us what you see, where you see it, how it feels, the sound of it, the taste in your mouth as you contemplate it. Your truth. Your take on that strange shifting prismatic place we call Reality.

Another way to say this is “Call ’em as you see ’em.” I warn you, this is dangerous. Are you willing to be that little kid who was silly enough to see what was right in front of him and said so, announcing, “The emperor has no clothes!” People don’t like it when you won’t abide by the established, agreed-upon, and above all NICE version of reality.

Your truth. Your voice. Your vision. Your style. Do you want to sound like all the other writers chasing the latest trend in publishing? Or do you want to speak the truth that burns inside you, that makes you restless and dissatisfied and compelled to write it down in whatever shape best suits it?

Speak your truth. Be authentic. Point out that mole on the emperor’s left butt cheek. Tell people what that birthmark looks like. Your words. Your ideas. Your style.

Your truth will set you free.


Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Writing