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What Social Change Activists Can Too Easily Forget
What Social Change Activists Can Too Easily Forget
By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org

I often think about this quote from Malcolm X. It's a point that really can't be made too often.

Having become socially conscious to a certain degree, it can be easy to fall into the trap of condemning or judging those who aren't as awakened as we are, forgetting that there was a time when we weren't as informed as we are today.

I've also found that shaming people for their lack of knowledge or perspective doesn't work. It may offer personal catharsis, but yelling on street corners or via social media things like "wake up America!" doesn't help wake people up.

Thinking of the masses as unthinking sheeple too stupid or lazy to know better cuts off the part of our brain that can look deeply and empathize with the deeper environmental circumstances that have created the mass-awareness crisis that our civilization faces.

In my experience, it was by random luck that I was born into a family that encouraged me to think freely and didn't teach me that there was only one true source of knowledge and all other sources are heresy. It was by random chance that I was exposed to books and magazines like Adbusters outside the mainstream consensus that sent me on a new path of learning. It was by chance that I grew up and met certain people that exposed me to alternative ways of seeing the world.

So from this vantage point I have a lot of compassion for the children that were born into situations that weren't so lucky. They grew up in a more rigid religious family, went to schools where the teachers and students are raised in similar environments, exposed to the same white-washed versions of history and social perspective, exposed to the same corporate media which homogenizes thought. And of course the mass media, which imparts a selective status-quo point of view to millions of people, is itself a product of the miseducation of our youth by an educational system which was also itself designed by people who were miseducated with the often subtle or not-so-subtle racist, sexist, nationalist, capitalist, religious views of the dominant culture.

People growing up in this society need our compassion and empathy, not more condemnation.

The point for me is that creating a relationship with someone from a place of empathy vs a place of judgement will create two different relationships and two different outcomes. From my experience, adults, like children, learn and grow better when the relationship is built on the former.

There are certainly a lot of adults who are 'too far gone' - indoctrinated into the cultural views of their environment - to be able to transform. I'm thinking of people like Bill O'Reilly, or maybe one of our older family members.

And when I think of the 5 year old Bill O-Reilly, before he was taught to be filled with so much hatred for others, I have a lot of compassion for the loving child that was long ago killed by the world he grew up in. I don't know what to say about adults like this, other than to find ways to minimize their harm to others.

Most of my energies I want to put towards those who are still on their journey, who still have an open mind, and haven't been so damaged by our world that change is impossible.

Focusing on media and education for the youth of the world is possibly our best chance to transform and break the cycle of miseducation. Because if we don't do anything, in 20 years time, we will have more wounded souls perpetuating the wounds they inherited from our society.

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What Social Change Activists Can Too Easily Forget