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Alex Șotropa - Doors wide open | People of Justice 2022 Bucharest

Author: Alex Șotropa

I think we're tired. Empathy is not as easy to exercise and, despite good intentions, you can do wrong and not be the best person. Many of us are people who have the necessary resources to contribute more to the good of those around us: But what's stopping us from getting more involved on a social level? I think the first step is to stop waiting for superheroes. I think we're tired. The pandemic, the war, the economic crisis, and many other uncertainties are knocking on our door.

For many, it's becoming more and more complicated to find their balance. It's more complicated to take care of others. Empathy is not as easy to exercise and allocating resources for social change, sometimes, even for small gestures or for any other charitable purpose is more and more difficult. I, for one, feel overwhelmed and discouraged from doing anything sometimes. I grew up seeing that, in my grandparents' village, the gates open towards the fountains in the houses' yards. That's because water is something vital, it's something you share with others. Because the entire community depends on it. In a way, culturally, most of us were raised and educated in a spirit of empathy. Sometimes, we built this into the way we organise our communities. Despite this fact, something's lost along the way.

Many of us are people who have the necessary resources to contribute more to the good of those around us: empathy, an open mind, and a thought that's bothering us. Despite this, we continue to work on our career, to grow on other levels, to fight for better positions. But what's stopping us from getting more involved on a social level? It's obvious that, if we devoted more resources to society, if we were just a bit more interested in and caring with those around us, the society we live in would be completely different. Especially since it's increasingly important to think about how to improve our education system, how to take care of the elderly, how to protect those vulnerable around us or how to protect the environment. Still, maybe a change in the way we see social change and engagement would be helpful. I think the first step is to stop waiting for superheroes. We can be a sort of Batman, if you like. Miraculous characters that bring about overnight change have always captivated us. They're a mirage and it doesn't work. Miracles are built, you have to fight for them, not by one of us, but by all of us. Then, we have to accept that, whatever the situation, it will be tough.

Any sort of change will encounter resistance. Whether it's the sluggishness of the system, the scarce resources, the administrative barriers or an outdated education, all of these will make it harder for us. For me, my time in university was a good example. It was formative for me as a professional, but not in a social context. I learned about law and justice in an almost glacial manner. Therefore, maybe it's difficult to leave room for engagement when you have such training. Why should we get involved if we only learn to tick boxes for the stages in our career. Something we can easily do is understand our role and our purpose. We can very well steal the strategy from corporations who always look to their clients and consumers when they want to create new products or services and they start from their needs.

We understand that our work doesn't only concern us, but it's often about others, it's in the service of others. For a part of society, a first step is precisely this change of perspective, a rearranging of priorities. And it's simple: medics work for their patients, teachers are devoted to their pupils, judges contribute to justice for others. One way or another, everyone's work involves others, too, or is devoted to others.

For me, when it comes to change, the justice system is the easiest example. We, legal experts, can start with small changes: a more accessible language, courts that are organised in order to allow and to facilitate access, affordable legal assistance, court rulings that are explained as simply and as clearly as possible. Overall, an experience that takes into account human psychology, basic needs, the need to be heard and understood. This rearrangement matters all the more, since every point of contact with the legal system, no matter whether we're lawyers, notaries, prosecutors, should have in mind the human quality of this activity. The stakes are huge. Because, in a single interaction, it contributes to or even shapes opinions held on a large scale about the entire system. The contact with a medic or the front desk of a hospital will lead to opinions about a whole. An impatient police officer or an angry public servant will create a general impression about entire professions. We can take advantage of the fact that younger generations have an almost latent wish for engagement that is getting bigger, a wish to help each other, to find meaning in our work, to satisfy precisely this need to make an impact. All this energy inside of us can be redirected towards small, local initiatives, NGOs and others.

We don't have to make radical changes. We don't have to give up on our jobs or devote our entire activity or donate all our wealth to an NGO. As a manager, maybe it's enough to talk about the social impact of our projects, to see how what we are developing can help or have an impact on underprivileged communities, to think about amenities. Maybe it can simply mean becoming better colleagues or leaders.

Finally, for me, it's important to understand that this entire journey is a process. For me, personally, it's a process of accepting that, despite good intentions, you can do wrong or, simply, that you're not the best person. I also try to accept the idea that this process is a daily one. Often, it's a fight against the mundane, against routine, with all the daily problems that appear, exhaustion from work or, sometimes, even the lack of any kind of motivation. My invitation for you requires a bit of trust on your part.

It's an invitation to be more open and connected. It's an invitation to be open, too, to others. This is because your energy, experience, and degree of engagement are vital for the community and maybe even more important than ever before in the years to follow.



The People of Justice 2022 shows were produced alongside Decât o Revistă, a team of journalists who believe in the transformational power of stories.

Together with over 1,000 viewers, we imagined what a more just Romania could look like through vulnerability, empathy and the power of example. In each city we brought on stage lawyers, journalists, civic activists and artists whose true stories about justice: how we achieve it, what it means for justice, education, the healthcare system or our cities.


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