Social change starts with meView(s):
I believe that real change is born from the grassroots, in the hands of ordinary people, like you and I. If we are so passionate about the creation and the protection of our individual rights, then we must carry the weight of responsibility that comes with it. The responsibility to be a good citizen, to understand, respect and appreciate our cultural diversity, our differences as well as the ability to celebrate what we have in common.
If each person took the responsibility to think critically instead of having our value systems being forced upon us by politicians on stump speeches, took responsibility for our communities, for our schools, for our environment, to have a moral compass for things that are so clearly wrong, then we set forth a tiny ripple of change.
You see, wrong things happen because we let it, because somewhere someone believes that he is above the law, that what he selfishly desires is the only thing that counts, regardless of how much hurt and pain he causes another and he is secure in the knowledge that he will get away with it. We only think from our perspective, however narrow or shallow that may be. Most cases of child abuse in Sri Lanka happen because someone in the family did not think it was wrong. Why else would someone rape and kill his 5 year old cousin? Why else would a father abuse his daughter? Why would someone murder his family in cold blood because of money and land? Where did they learn that that was perfectly normal to do? When did the superficial, the material become of more value than a life?
Maybe it is because we live in a world where everything is expendable. We wait excitedly for the newest brand of phone, laptop and car and when it does come in, we throw away the relatively new and replace it with the newest. Maybe we live in a society where having money means having power, regardless of how corrupt a person you had to be to get to that point and that is how we as a society judge success? Isn’t that what we are shown on our television screens, where if something does not go our way, we must resort to violence in the form of words and deeds?
How hypocritical is it that TV shows are banned from showing images of smoking or consuming alcohol but it is perfectly acceptable to show a man slapping a woman or threatening his neighbour with death? These are the stereotypes that slowly seep into our communities. I don’t have the answers but I believe that each of us are in this world to fulfil a purpose, to at the very least make a difference in the lives in our immediate circle, no matter how big or small that circle is.
How can we best contribute to the progress of our nation? Do we wait until the government gifts us social justice and equal rights or does that lie in our own hands? Will such a perfect equilibrium, no matter how hard we fight for it or not fight for it all, ever exist? Governments will come and go, promises will be made and broken, human problems will change and fade, only to be replaced by new one’s but there is only so much change policy can bring forth from above.
If we want a society which is blind to race, caste, wealth, gender, where individual merit alone is the criterion for a person’s advancement, then we need to make sure that no matter what we do in our lives, we have a strong moral compass. Individual rights mean nothing if we don’t respect and work together in the community we live in. Be good and do good, on a personal level or by volunteering your time and energy to whatever you are passionate about. Society is such that there will always be those who are more equal, more wealthy, have more opportunities than the others. That is sadly how the world we live in has always worked. That is also where social issues begin and can end. If you have been given the gift of knowledge, you have the responsibility to share it, you have the responsibility to use it in a way that benefits all. And it doesn’t hurt to show compassion either.
This column was written by a STITCH volunteer to find out more about STITCH and how you can get involved, visit our website, www.stitchmovement.com
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