How to be the change that you want to see

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Article Date: 
Jan 23 2013, 2200

After the screening of a film about an international conflict, an interesting discussion ensued with students. This is what I love most about screening my films at colleges. Students tend to engage you with questions that arise from their angst to survive or fit in the system that they are slowly beginning to understand. Quite often, there is a sense of despair depicted through the evergreen phrase, “We are mere individuals. We can’t change anything”.
This phrase also represents an acceptance of being trapped in a system where a lot of what goes on is unacceptable. Yet the sense that ‘we do not have the power to change it’ remains overwhelming. It always reminds me of my own student days; fighting against whatever I could; sometimes winning and losing small battles. These struggles became more difficult as life evicted us from college. The tasks were more daunting each time and the means to challenge, much more limited than ever before. It can surely bog down anyone.
We live in a strangely paradoxical society where the people are under a continuous assault by the system. But who created the system? The people. Why? So they can live in peace. The system, however, started quantifying and organising everything. How natural is that? Take a look at a ‘natural’ forest and figure out for yourself. Is nature arranged? Surely it is but, unlike a man-made, manicured garden. It is considered chaotic because man is yet to figure out and comprehend that organicity. Yet, there is a sense in that chaos; everything and everyone has a place, be it a plant or animal. And then, there is human civilisation, governed by laws, borders and ‘Don’ts!’ Organised skyscrapers and posh villas for some and unorganised shanties for a huge majority that doesn’t matter.
One of the worst things the system we created did, was to contain our ‘movement’ -- Try travelling to another part of earth, that is labelled by the system as ‘another country’, without a piece of paper called passport and a stamp called visa. Next came the restriction on thoughts: only the system can decide what is good for ‘everyone’ and create a way to do ‘just that’ and we must abide by it. Through centuries, these dictums got so knotted that we do not know where to start questioning. So, while we see problems all around us, we do not know how to bring around a change or challenge the system. It is a classic story of an invention created to help mankind that turns into a monster and enslaves people when it realises its own power.
We see the young express their disillusionment and discomfort with the way things are. And we know they aren’t far from the truth, yet somewhere down the line, most of us got trapped and began serving the very system that violates our being. By closing our eyes, creating more walls to revel in the comfort of an artificial sense of safety and distancing oneself from other beings while hoping the hurt won’t reach me? Shouldn’t we actually be getting after it, in whatever little way we can? To do that, we must be able to believe that somewhere else, unknown to us, someone else too would be doing the same thing. And even if not, take a dig into history and fathom this; almost every change began with a thought from a single person before it spread and engulfed large chunks of humanity. That is my answer to the young people no matter where they are. Jodi tor daak shuney kyo na aashey, tobey ekla cholo rey (If no one responds to your call, walk alone). These eternal verses from Rabindra Nath Tagore will be your friend, if you begin to believe in yourself and your thoughts.

(The writer is a filmmaker, traveller and doctor)