Distraught and disillusioned, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire over three months ago. His death a few weeks later sparked protests throughout Tunisia as citizens formed an alliance rooted in sorrow and rage.
Towards the end of January, thousands of Egyptians, inspired by Tunisians, poured into the streets also demanding an end to autocratic rule, government corruption, and escalating unemployment, among other concerns. I am sure Bouazizi never thought his actions would result in a revolution.
While I am not advocating self-immolation, it’s a critical example nonetheless: One young man’s anger and unrelenting courage birthed a movement not only in his native land, but Egypt. Often an individual’s willingness to take a stand energizes others, and a solidarity emerges which is not easily broken. Although these stories are now considered old news, when examined collectively there are cogent lessons to be mined about the power of one – one person, one group of people and one action to impact change.
|Alister Rutherford blog
According Craig Kanalley and Jake Bailer for The Huffington Post (Jan. 20, 2011), despite the Egyptian government’s attempts to shut down people’s communication with the outside world, activist group Telecomix efforts prevailed.
Describing their mission, the reporters wrote: “Organizing using chat rooms, wikis, and collaborative writing tools, this largely anonymous group has worked to inform Egyptians about their communications options while receiving incoming messages from them. Telecomix has previously worked on free speech efforts in Tunisia, Iran, China and other countries who have tried to censor or block parts of the Internet.”
A sole action shifted the balance, giving a voice to millions, not only in this region, but in different countries throughout the world where candid speech remains elusive. Although the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants freedom of speech here, many people, bogged down by the minutia of life, do not always take advantage of it. Injustices linger and unnecessary pain imbues pockets of society. Perhaps it’s more comfortable to huddle around office water coolers, chat at beauty salons and barbershops, or rant on talk radio. Yet change is indeed possible, and it begins with you in each moment.
The next time something is an irritant, move your focus not to complaining, but the kind of fearless action which can alter the situation. You might not be facing an intolerant dictator or losing benefits from your job, but possessing the courage to speak up in smaller ways is just as vital. Perhaps anthropologist Margaret Mead said it most aptly: “Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
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