Changing the World

One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.” Henry David Thoreau

I used to believe that an altruistic vision coupled with focused large-scale action and single-minded persistence would make the world a better place. In fact, I used to think that was the only way to shake things up. I’ve changed my mind a bit on this.

No, I haven’t given up on making a difference.

But I see more clearly now how to be more effective in even the smallest of my efforts. Persistence is certainly important. But so is being vocal.

I rant a great deal. If you have read a few of my blogs, you’ve probably figured out that I have an opinion about everything. I’m adamant too, not to the point of insulting others, but certainly to the point of heated discussion. I often catch myself in conversations with friends going on and on about the political, social and economic problems that require solutions. Their eyes typically gloss over at this point in the discussion and I worry about our friendship. Still I persist.

You might ask: why does every single issue have to matter so much.

Simple answer: it always has.

I’m a product of one of those families. You know the one. My family talked through the entire gamut of issues: from what we were having for dinner to the mayor’s plan for the homeless and everything in between. I’m used to it and this process has given me a voice. A voice that I’ve been taught can and must be used.

Talking things through means I’m engaged. Being engaged means I push myself to find out more. And that knowledge is the first step in taking action. Whether that action is big or small, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the doing that is important.

Some of the actions I’ve taken include, penning this blog, writing letters to corporations, governments, and anyone that raises my ire or gives me cause to provide praise. I’ve also put a loonie in someone’s outstretched hand, or bought them a bowl of soup.

Does putting a bit of money in someone’s hand change the world? It changes that person’s world. I’ve acknowledged him or her, taken the time to have a conversation, hopefully made them feel a little bit better.

In addition to these other acts, I’ve also boycotted businesses for actions I thought were reprehensible: Sears for treating my parents badly, most chocolate companies who refuse to change their practices or acknowledge that child labour is used to pick the cocoa bean, clothing companies for their sexist ads, American products because of the first invasion of Iraq and their ridiculous coining of Freedom Fries when France would not take part in that attack, and German products because of their unfair and short-sighted treatment of Greece in the last round of austerity talks. I’m not too happy with Britain either, but that’s a blog all to itself.

My husband teases me that pretty soon we won’t be able to buy anything from anyone because there are too many organizations on my boycott list. Maybe he’s right, but my point is I don’t need anything badly enough to want to buy it from people I don’t like or those who have questionable values.

My husband also thinks my actions don’t make one bit of difference.

I don’t see it that way. The Sears organization is crumbling in Canada, there are more free-trade options for chocolate than ever before, we now all know what that first invasion of Iraq cost the world (not that we’ve learned much from it), and women are standing up against sexist advertising.

Did I make this all happen by myself? Absolutely not. I’m just one voice. But that small voice added to all the others, one building on the next has resulted in a crescendo of positive change. That’s all that matters.

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