Saturday, 29 September 2012

Small actions trigger whole movements.

We are raised to believe that we are powerless to change things, but we are linked: one change affects the whole structure around us. Throughout history one small action has triggered entire movements, like abolishing slave and child labour. All it took for the modern civil rights movement to gain huge momentum were the actions of individuals, namely a formerly unknown seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks. Many historians agree that December 1, 1955, was the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States, when Rosa Parks was arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. Her single act of defiance had a profound impact on a movement that ended legal segregation in America.

Small actions do make a difference.

What is extremely interesting to me is that when looking back on some of the terrible things humans have done to each other, from slavery to the Holocaust, the general attitude is often one of incredulity. We often think, “How could that have been allowed to happen? Today we would never let that kind of atrocity occur,” but the truth is that similar events are happening today, disguised under different platforms. And sometimes the platforms are not even that different.

It is easy to look back on something and ask, “how could they have been so stupid as to actually think it was acceptable to persecute people based on race or religion?” It is a lot harder to look around and realize that hindsight is 20/20, and that we are inevitably acting in ways that future generations will look at and ask the same things about us. When discussing the Holocaust people often question how the German people could have been oblivious to what was going on in their own country; they wonder how a genocide was executed by a leader they themselves had elected. But the reality is that we are in essence partaking in the same kind of obliviousness. We poison the environment in the same unaccountable and reckless way that we chastise past generations for. We consume unsustainable amounts of resources, fill our bodies and our water with toxins, and still fall victim to military-industrial complexes and American exceptionalism.

If we continue our current direction, future generations are going to look back at us and say exactly the same thing we so often say:  ”How could they be so stupid?” 

Rosa Parks Biography, Academy of Achievement:

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