Change is Within Us

Several things have been really troubling me – 

> Human Trafficking – Reading the stories about girls who are as young as 10 years old (about the age of my niece)  taken from their homes and sold into the sex trade to live a life of repeated rape and exploitation multiple times a days for years.  

> Seeing a dead homeless man laying in a puddle of his own blood yesterday in downtown San Francisco

> Homelessness in general – Homeless kids, Homeless adults, people living on the streets begging for connection

> Environmental destruction from the sand pits of Alberta to the rainforest of Brazil

Part of me can’t make sense of it all. As a society how can we allow these things to happen. How can we allow little girls with so much potential be exploited in such a manner? Why do we restrict our love to only friends and family and allow fellow humans to perish on the streets of our cities? Why can’t we mobilize to prioritize the well being of our planet over our desire for cheap products and corporate profits? 

I know the issues are complicated, they always are, it is easy to hide behind ignorance, apathy, or government to clean up the mess. However, in this day and age of information at our fingertips and the inability of government to actually do anything, there isn’t anyone else left except ourselves to make this world better. 

After thinking a lot about these issues I realized that I’m hypocritical. Every time I think about the problems of the world my mind gets lost in an abyss. The problems are so large how can I possibly make a change? But this type of thinking is where the problem lies. 

The solution isn’t going to come from an organization or a world changing idea. The solution to the world’s problems are within each of us. Our actions, our behaviors, and our thoughts are where the problem lies. 

To change the world, the change has to start with oneself. If I am saddened by the lack of love and care shown to the homeless, then the next time I pass a homeless person it is my duty to show the care and love that I want others to show. 

If I am saddened by environmental degradation then I have to reduce my foot print in whatever way possible. 

If I want to end human trafficking then it is up to me to become informed and understand what I can do to help. It is my decision as a citizen of the world whether to spend $30 tonight on dinner or spend $30 to sponsor a girl in India so that she stays in school and avoids a life of exploitation.

Despite how dysfunctional our government is, I can’t complain about how our government doesn’t represent my needs unless I write to my congress person to let her know about my concerns. 

To change the world I have to change my actions. Many of the worlds problems are directly or indirectly being reaffirmed by our actions, how we live, and how we spend our money. If we are truly concerned then to create true change we need to change ourselves. 

By now some of you are thinking – “Nothing I can do can really change the world. The problems are so large that even if I change my actions they will exist.” 

So instead it is easy to claim apathy and resign to our day to day living, but that is in a lack of better words – bullshit. 

By changing yourself you can start a movement. It is clear we can’t rely on big groups and governments to solve the toughest problems in the world. It’s time for the individual to stand up and decide what is acceptable and what is not. In many ways this has been the mandate of our generation. We are the generation of the single person starting a movement that changes the world – in our companies, in the Middle East, in the age of Facebook and Twitter. True lasting change will only come when you decide to change yourself. 

Pick something – anything that makes your heart break and figure out how you can change 1 thing in your life to solve the heart break and change the world. 


4 thoughts on “Change is Within Us

  1. Nice post. Completely agree.

    “As a society how can we allow these things to happen.”

    I’ve thought a lot about that question, and found that there are two social psychology concepts that help me put our collective (in)actions in context: pluralistic ignorance and social proof.

    If you’re not familiar with them, I suggest you check out their Wikipedia pages. I believe they reinforce your points about the need for each of us to take individual responsibility.

    Some relevant passages:

    “Pluralistic ignorance may partially explain the bystander effect: the observation that people are more likely to intervene in an emergency situation when alone than when other persons are present. If people monitor the reactions of others in such a situation, they may conclude from the inaction of others that other people think that it is not necessary to intervene. Thus no one may take any action, even though some people privately think that they should do something. On the other hand, if one person intervenes, others are more likely to follow and give assistance.”

    “Social proof is a type of conformity. When a person is in a situation where they are unsure of the correct way to behave, they will often look to others for cues concerning the correct behavior. When “we conform because we believe that other’s interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more accurate than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action,” it is informational social influence.”

    1. Thanks Raju. These links are awesome – this is related to some of the Behavioral Economics stuff I read by Dan Ariely – haven’t gotten around to reading Kahneman’s book yet. This also reminds me of the free-rider problem specifically relating to the environment.

  2. Your mentioning of spending $30 on dinner or donating it reminded me of birthdays and donations.

    One small way of giving is using the attention your birthday commands to contribute to a good cause. You may have heard stories about young kids washing cars on their birthday with friends, and then donating that money; or like Cherry, who had friends volunteer with her for Habitat for Humanity for her birthday. 🙂

    1. Good point Ankur. One of my friends does that whenever her birthday comes around, I think it is a really good idea! Also a great way to start another birth year..

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