These events are happening far away from me – but there are other things that are close and that I still cannot change. If my friend is in pain, I can listen to him. If my friend needs help, I will come to her house and do what I can. But when it comes to systemic problems – be it the so far unsuccessful attempts to save the Nigerian girls, or sexual violence on US college campuses – I am painfully aware of my inability to influence things in any major way.
Several posts ago I talked about dragons that many people carry within – dragons of complacency that slow us down on our journey towards a society based on justice, equality and freedom. While there are plenty of people whose life is good enough for them to believe that no change is necessary, those who do want to find ways of dealing with social problems often feel powerless. It all boils down to the issue of motivation. Whether I believe that there is no need for change, or that there is no hope for change, the result will likely be the same – I will not do anything.
Those who have ever engaged in activism know how long and difficult the process of bringing about even a little improvement is. There are too many forces at play, too many gatekeepers (some of whom do not think that change is necessary), too many factors out of our control. No wonder that there are not so many activists out there (compared to the total number of people in the world, I mean).
I am not an activist, but I really want to make the world a better place. I think about it all the time, and I work on creating strategies of making a difference. Some days I am down and out because I feel that whatever I do is a microscopic drop in an ocean the size of the universe. I think of efforts of so many people before me, and with frustration I have to admit that many problems people have been dealing with for years and years are still around – poverty, violence, sexism, racism, homophobia, to name a few. If after all these years and all this work these problems are still around, than what can I possibly do?
When I get to the dark place of hopelessness, I tell myself this: The best thing I can do is just go on. I will choose a road, and if it leads to a dead-end, I will find another one, and then another one. If I fall, I will get up, regroup and continue. I will always believe in people, and believe that things can be better. I do not have the power to magically make all problems disappear – buy I have the power of not giving up.