Making a Difference

in Blog, General, Uncategorized | by admin | on June 24th, 2011 |

Today’s post that isn’t about organizing things.  It’s about organizing people, and the importance of grassroots protest.

I was told recently that one person can’t make a difference in the world’s problems.  That’s clearly not true.  Look at Ghandi.  Nelson Mandela. Susan B. Anthony.  They each started out as one person, acting as they felt they must.  One person, given the knowledge, motivation, and resources, can make a difference on a global scale (eventually).  However …

One person, acting locally and independently, is NOT going to make a difference.  For instance, I can protest factory farming by choosing not to eat meat (or by choosing only local, family-farm produced meat), and by telling others about my actions and the rationale.  I am assuaging my conscience, but I’m not going to undo the meat industry, not even if I convince all of my friends and acquaintances to follow suit.  All we will do is create a niche market for “small lot” meat products.

I think the message is not that one person can’t make a difference, but that, by taking small, local or individual action we do not absolve ourselves of responsibility for what happens on the larger scale.  We may ease our consciences, but we are not effecting change.  We cannot change the rules by opting out of the game. That said, not everyone can play on the large scale.  We all must still do what we can do, and only some of us will be led – or dragged – into the bigger arena.

We must also not overlook the power of grassroots protest.  A small group of students convinced Nike to change their production practices to provide safe working conditions, better wages, and minimum age requirements for workers.  Nike, in turn, put pressure on their competitors to match their actions.  Now, none of that means that sweatshops have been eradicated, but it does mean we’ve begun on the path and, with continued vigilance and pressure, eventually we’ll get there.  I know we don’t have the time for that kind of progress with food issues or environmental issues, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the approach, just that it needs to be only one of many tactics.

We can’t all fight every battle on every front.  It’s too much.  Choose your issues, stand your ground, look for like-minded people you can group together with, to support each other and make a statement.  Don’t keep your ethical actions private.  And keep your eyes open for that person who is going to take it to the next level.  It might be you!



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