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By Yourself for the Sake of Others
19 mai 2010
When we think of people working towards social change often the first images we get are those of movements. The movement of abolitionists bringing those under slavery in this country to freedom comes to mind. The American suffrage movement finally granting women the right to vote in 1920 is another. Movements to find important cures for diseases like AIDS are examples as well.
Among the many qualities these movements have in common is that they involved the efforts of large numbers of people working together in a coordinated and organized fashion. This usually meant some national organizing head or a lead party under which a set of principles were laid out and some form of common doctrine or constitution were written up. Underneath the lead organization there may be smaller state level branches on down to the grassroots level. In every nation in every corner groups of people working together towards a common cause have throughout history wrought change and influenced the development of societies.
    Of course all of these started on a grass roots level. Here the seeds were sown nurtured and first cultivated by people who had a common realization about the world around them. Perhaps this vision stretched to a larger town, city, state or even nation, but usually it came about from insights into things from within their everyday lives. Perhaps one person had a realization and shared it with another. Perhaps that insight awoke something in the next and from there it spread. Maybe upon mentioning an insight they found someone else had noticed the same thing.
    Either way, folks decided to work together and eventually brought influence to bear and change. But, in today’s society it’s not always so easy just to do the right thing for the sake of doing something right. We all have responsibilities from families to the workplace and even social circles. Joining a group can be frightening as much as one might hate to admit it because of the ramifications of such a step. Even with the most seemingly innocuous of groups there is always the chance if being labeled risky, a trouble maker or someone who makes waves.
    Besides, there are so many people already working on many of the big issues it might feel as if your own efforts are like one more drop of water in an ocean. The internal politics in some of some of the most positive groups can be as bad as anywhere else due to positions of power usually and politics coming into play. Aside from that in the post 911 world of heightened scrutiny and surveillance nobody wants to be a target for investigation. Although we don’t like to admit it there have been plenty of news stories about harmless book discussion groups and even local gyms being surveiled by national law enforcement. That too can be a turn off.
    But things happen around us all the time from someone at the coffee store being consistently treated rudely to people at our places of work being harassed. In today’s world we are taught and mostly accept that it’s the adult thing to look the other way. Getting involved in such things is immature somehow or can pull you into problems you didn’t already have.
    We still feel pangs of empathy and sympathize with people when they are in distress, but for many reasons including some of the above we stay out. Each problem fits into a larger picture. By stepping back a little from the minor details letting the picture settle in our minds we may have discover the clarity of a realization will come upon us. The way to help out in a situation and still remain detached can be achieved.
    Of course once the way is discovered for the person observing the next step is the hardest and that’s to act. Often situations can be resolved through the work of individuals working by themselves. Take the example of a person being harassed at work. Perhaps they admitted something about a coworker’s conduct when asked. Perhaps they are a little different from those around them.
    Whatever the case giving them a hand may be a matter of doing something unseen or unnoticed. It doesn’t have to be illegal, immoral or even outright. It is often just a matter of thinking outside of the box. Placing a missing piece, tightening a loose screw or repairing a frayed end to whatever extent possible may just be the grease needed to get the wheels turning correctly and help that individual. As it may go unnoticed the only reward for you may be the satisfaction of seeing resolution and knowing you played a part.
    This can be very effective with larger issues as well. Take the latest presidential elections. All across the country people wanted change. So folks did everything from campaign to contribute what they could to actually vote. From that an unlikely candidate and certainly one of the underdogs of his party emerged a winner. Other campaigns like that of Ron Paul were also pushed forward by the momentum not of large corporate interests and huge cash donations but by the efforts of singular people many working alone by creating blogs etc. It showed the large seemingly invulnerable entities we think of as all powerful aren’t necessarily that at all.
    Likewise positive change can be brought about by the efforts of people working alone based on what they see and hear around them. Think of how many petty useless details can be cut out of any such effort by going solo. Think of how much the politics of large or even small organizations could be reduced. With multiple people working as individuals who knows what achievements can be attained?
It’s simply harder for the works to be gummed up when you yourself are responsible for their maintenance. Never underestimate the power you have yourself to do something positive for yourself or even better for the sake of others. It may just be the thing the world you live in is waiting for.

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