Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on February 22, 2006
Everyone wants to be the change. It sounds exciting, its a new concept – and it gives one a sense of (for once) actually doing something worthwhile. How do you actually go about being the change you wish to see?
Pondering this issue often, the easiest and most hands-on approach that I’ve come across – activism. Take an issue to heart, do something positive for something you are concerned about, and go out and seize the initiative.
Activism has often been seen in a negative light and indeed, the word itself suggests a negative connotation in today’s world.
K-12 and UG education – check.
Degree from a prestigious world university – check.
Fat paycheck with 6 or more 0s at the end – check.
Settled for life – check.
Seem to be missing something? I might be sticking my neck out here, but to me it seems as if an entire past generation has missed out on the activism that their elders were known for. One needs only take the example of the time under Jaiprakash Narayan (JP) and the entire stretch of the emergency, or on a world stage, the emergence of flower power and the protests that highlighted the era of the Vietnam War and the anti arms race rallies taken out in the 60s and 70s. Where has that gone?
The point of this post however is not to bemoan a lost ideal or chastise a section of society for their relative lack of activity on this issue – indeed, the whole point here is to take a lesson from the past and get going for us, for our generation. Definitely, even in the (much berated) 80s and 90s, and even now, there are activists who have untiringly given the better part of their lives for causes they believe in and to bring positive change. Examples abound.
What does it take to be an activist? Are all the stereotypes and cliches propagated about them true? Liberalist, leftist, pseudo-any-given-thing-ists? I don’t know – I invite you to further propagate them if you wish – but whatever they are, we have it in us to change those stereotypes and chalk out a new course. And no, you don’t have to devote your entire life to it – however ideal and noble that may sound, let’s face the facts – very few people have it in them to actually follow that path, and it is all the more testimony to their commitment and vision that they stick with the path they take through their lives.
Taking a stand on an issue doesn’t require a lofty issue at hand or a bunch of heady ideals – it could be something as local as disposing off all your garbage efficiently and cleanly – to something as big as taking on a worldwide beverage manufacturer for its blatant disregard of environmental and human concerns by boycotting its products.
Take up a task relevant to you or close to your heart – and try to do whatever you can to aid a change in the status quo. That phrase – status quo – enables the spread of most of the injustice there is in today’s world. A case in point – the devastation cause to Bhopal and its inhabitants after the leak of deadly Methyl Isocyanate 21 years ago due to the negligence of (then) Union Carbide.
Today – 21 years have passed, Union Carbide is now Dow Chemical, countless people have died, many more are suffering its effects – and what is the situation on the ground? Status quo.
Cruel, calculated words – what does status quo mean to someone who’s lost his vision in the tragedy? What is status quo to someone who’s lost a close family member or friend? What is a remedy to this situation? How is justice delivered?
Unanswered though those questions may be, one thing is for certain – unless you take a stand, unless you make that crucial difference, it will forever remain status quo. And that is something the world cannot afford.
Take a stand, do something new, follow an ideal – above all, be the change you wish to see. To quote a poem by Martin Niemoller (on the cleansing in Nazi Germany):
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out–because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Lest there be no one left to speak for you …