God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth [The Help].
Lately, I’ve watched films that portray the human condition under duress. One of these is an Oscar nominated movie entitled “The Help,” in which maids (living in the deep South) decided to invoke change. They contributed their personal stories to a book that illuminated their condition as oppressed, exploited, degraded, and abused.
What amazed me was that these activities occurred despite the personal risks to the participants. From the mother of the movie’s writer: “Courage skips a generation…” So many situations that supported an unbalanced power structure would have continued unabated unless a few brave souls decided to have their say. [This is of course easier when the powers that be solicit your opinions on a regular basis, and make changes based on your suggestions].
I would imagine that the majority of transformational change has occurred in an oppositional fashion – in the face of coercion, potential loss of livelihood, and the ever-present specter of legal action. Simply opening one’s mouth is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you’re an introvert by nature. One of my friends (with exhilaration) described her encounter with a floor supervisory doctor: “I stood my ground, and it made me feel like a million bucks.”
Why not unearth your inner treasure on a more frequent basis? Others may cease to wipe their feet on you when they see that you refuse to be cowed - i.e., they may back down when you cease to amuse them. In the movie How to start a revolution, Gene Sharp explains that a tactic used by authoritarian rulers is to make people afraid of their peers. They then fail to band together against abuse.
If support of a tyrant is transferred to an alternative power system, the structural components of governance can begin anew. In “Generation Freedom,” Feiler describes individuals who are more afraid of God (than the enemy) in terms of their perceived responsibility to speak. In a culture of fear, how can we engender a cohort of free expression? Below are some tips that may grease the wheels:
- Set the example. Be the first to raise a question, to challenge accepted practice, or to propose an alternative method. I heard James Dobson describe an incident where no one wanted to be the first to serve themselves at a buffet. When he (the lone man) grabbed a plate, a stampede of women overwhelmed his place in line. Once a single person makes a fist of solidarity, others will soon follow.
- Find alternative methods of sharing your message. Social media is a portal which is unsurpassed in terms of both immediacy and outreach. Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook, along with the myriad of Web 2.0 tools, provide countless mediums to share your message; an added bonus is that you may find followers along the way. The metaverse no doubt played a role in the instantaneous transfer of information we saw in recent freedom movements.
- Be the change you want to see. The hackneyed phrase “actions speak louder than words” is no truer than in your quest for integrity. You may not be good at presentation, but you may be an excellent silent witness for your cause. Don’t let your guard down regardless of the circumstance – you never know who may be taking notes. “Remember, the change you want to see in the world, and in your school, begins with you.” ― Joseph Clementi