Be the Change you want to see in the world
How Can I change the world if I can’t even change myself?
– Maxi Jazz
Of late my mood seems to be up and down… my sleep restless. My passion to change the world has never been greater, but nor has my frustration at my lack of progress. One minute I feel empowered, that anything is possible – the fact that I am still breathing always reminds me that anything is possible and miracles do happen; but the next moment the apathy of the world leaves me feeling powerless, frustrated and utterly exhausted.
I know speaking with others who devote themselves to trying to make this world a little bit better for us all, I am not alone in my frustration. It is a daily battle to remain motivated and committed for all of us.
Feeling demoralised yesterday I chose to immerse myself in some quotes from two of my biggest heroes – Gandhi and Martin Luther King; I thought this would ‘pick me up’ and motivate me, yet the power of their words left me feeling even more frustrated.
Both were men of wisdom and able to deliver the most inspirational words, and to change the hearts of thousands and millions; yet reading their words, they seemed just as relevant to the problems we face today. To me their words have changed me and DO have the power to change the world, – but they haven’t. We still face the same difficulties and frustrations as Martin Luther King, yet I still have a dream.
Today we have the power of the internet – the potential to reach out and communicate with like-minded people; yet our voices seem to get lost in the sheer enormous vacuum of it all.
I think of how both Gandhi and Martin Luther King were able to attract thousands of people to hear them speak, yet they had no internet, and in their lifetimes – very limited telephony. But perhaps the lack of technology worked in their favour – people who heard their message were so inspired by what they heard they actually spoke to their friends and persuaded them to come along and listen for themselves next time. Face to face conversations are always far more powerful and inspiring than those found or lost on-line.
Perhaps the injustice they fought so strongly against affected so many more their message resonated with a greater number of people, perhaps the world was less apathetic and cared more back then?
I don’t expect the majority of people in the UK to understand what it is like to be affected by political violence, to not have Peace, I know that Peace generally only matters when you no longer have it. Only then you realise how important it is. But that is kind of the point; I need to help people understand this; and the impact of trauma – when it is something you just can’t imagine until you have experienced it. I know I couldn’t have imagined it eight years ago.
In my peace work, my meeting with former extremists has raised eyebrows, some wonder how I could bring myself to be in a room with people who have previously committed acts of political violence – but the truth is – not only do I ALWAYS learn so much from them, I also find talking to extremists far easier than talking to people who just don’t care either way. At least I know a healthy debate is about to take place; and we will both leave with lots to think about, and a greater understanding of the problem we both seek to resolve. Only when we are both able to understand both sides are we able to start working on the solutions.
Today our society seems gripped by a sense of powerlessness, of apathy, of ‘it doesn’t affect me’ syndrome. My greatest fear is no longer extremists, but apathy. The question which keeps me awake at night is how do I inspire the hearts and minds of others? How do I get my message of peace and recovery to the people I know it can help? How do I reach out, connect and raise awareness?
We live in a strange world, yet I like to believe it is not a completely selfish one. I know we all would like to live in a place where the people around us are ‘nice to each other’ where we ‘do good things’ yet reading newspapers and media, you would think we live in a world where murderers and other criminals far out-number the good people, and the good deeds they do – but I know this is not the case. I still believe in humanity. We complain people remember the names of the criminals but never their victims, yet it’s because the media focus so much on the criminals and the bad things which happen in the world that this is the case.
I turn on the news and often I cry at the dreadful things I see, yet I know there are so many wonderful things which happen in the community which should be celebrated but we never hear about them in the news. Every day heroes who are never given the credit they deserve; how I would prefer to hear far more of those stories when I turn on the news. I’m a big believer in positivity creating more positivity, and if we saw more of the good which happens that people would be less apathetic and feel inspired to start making small differences in their own community.
Our news is dominated by stories of horror, dishonesty, death and wars – so much so we become almost immune to it. We have watched for the last year as thousands of people in Syria have been killed – yet no government seems willing to assist or intervene. Today there are reports that chemical weapons may have been used recently – perhaps that will lead to international intervention, perhaps not. What seems ironic to me is that we can sit back watching people die on our TV screens each evening, yet it is the method by which they are dying that may prompt action, not the numbers of people being killed.
Of course I remember eight years ago, before I experienced political violence and trauma, when I too was unable to distinguish what happened on the news and the TV drama which followed. They were all just characters on the screen. But now, I am able to understand these are real people, just like you and I. I am able to see, and understand the look of fear in their eyes; a look I was unaccustomed to until 7th July 2005 – but one which I now immediately connect with and which breaks my heart each time I see it.
We also demand our ‘heroes’ and campaigners to be 100% perfect in every way. They must live lives which are 100% inspirational and no matter what their hardships or hurdles to be overcome, they must never disappoint their ‘public’ with a flaw or by making a mistake. Yet no one is 100% perfect, just as no one is 100% evil – yet the press and people reading don’t seem to be able to handle the slightly imperfect in-between. No person whose life has been profoundly affected by trauma would ever claim to be a hero, extraordinary, or perfect, or to get it right 100% of the time; we have just experienced extraordinary events; we are not always able to make the right decision in those extraordinary events; but at least we try. ‘Heroes’ are placed on pedestals by others and expected to keep their balance no matter what life throws at them or how heavy the burdens they carry.
Perhaps this connected world we live in is so big we now feel it’s impossible to have any influence or make a difference at all?
We may not be able to change the world, but for those we are able to help, their whole world changes. It does mean the world to them. On the last day of my trip building houses in Cambodia the rest of my group felt frustrated that we hadn’t made a big enough difference, that we could have picked any of the families in the village, they were all in just as much need, but I could see for the families who we had built houses for, we had changed their lives forever.
Rather than putting our leaders or inspirational heroes on pedestals, on which they need to balance at all times, maybe instead we should think of them like a lead domino. A domino which has been knocked down and somehow finds the strength to pick them-selves back up. But when a domino falls, if placed correctly – it can cause a chain reaction – if it can only touch the other dominos.
So next time you hear an inspirational story or meet a hero – be their domino and pass the message on, and maybe, just maybe we could create something beautiful and change the world, one domino at a time.
Be my domino and consider sharing my kickstarter project – and share your passions with me, and I will be your domino… you never know what a beautiful ripple effect we could create with our dominos.