In the personal realm, racism and sexism. My sister and I are both in interracial marriages, so whereas other social issues are certainly important, those things threaten the safety and prosperity of our families. Knowing what my wife went through as the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Mexican-American father, the racism coming out of the woodwork in the US terrifies me. I always knew it was there, but with neo-Nazis and Klansmen openly advocating genocide at mainstream political rallies, I really think we’re skirting the precipice of fascism.
In the less-personal (but not impersonal) realm, my main thing is breakdowns in communication between well-intentioned people due to stereotypes and preconceptions. Not with trolls, there was never communication with trolls in the first place. But it feels like, especially on the internet but in meatspace also, that a lot of people try to sort each other into a few simplified bins, and then get frustrated with each other because they’re talking past each other with the stereotypes they earnestly believe must really be there lurking behind this facade of a three-dimensional person. I don’t know what drives this earnestness. Maybe it’s the sunk-cost fallacy, or simply not wanting to admit we can be and often are wrong about each other. When I catch myself doing this, it’s my biggest source of shame for being that obtuse, but it also makes me glad I caught myself and I worry about how many times I may have done it to someone and never realized it.
In the political realm, anthropogenic climate change. I firmly believe this will be by far the most significant issue of this century, much as nuclear war was the 20th century’s Sword of Damocles, with the notable difference that this sword is already falling toward our head, we’re past prevention and all we can do to save our civilization is mitigation and damage control. You don’t turn half the world’s population into refugees and trash the ecosphere without fallout like we’ve never faced before, an order of magnitude or more worse in almost every way than WWII or the Black Death or the Spanish flu pandemic. I honestly don’t know if we make it through this one with civilization intact. And I think most people don’t worry about it because they either don’t believe it, don’t understand the scale of the danger, expect others to fix it, or simply feel powerless to do anything about it.
Sorry, but narrowing it down to three was hard enough.