In today’s morning assembly at school, we had a teacher speak to us about a statement by Karl Marx that stayed in her thoughts long after she came across it. It was a simple yet intriguing sentence: Shame is a revolutionary sentiment
She went on to talk about how as a society, we seem to have ceased feeling ashamed about our corrupt political leaders and convicted religious figures and instead, place them on high pedestals; how we are not ashamed about the inequalities that plague our country. She was quite vocal about it, saying that it reflects our blind worship for power and authority. She brought how shame can be a harbinger of change if we take action after that feeling.
These points resonated strongly with me, a girl who dreams of using her words to inspire people to take action, to fight injustice and ultimately, be the change they want to see in the world. I like to tell myself that after all, the pen is mightier than the sword.
All of us feel angry when we read or hear about violence, deaths, discrimination or other such social evils. Ashamed? To an extent, yes. But is that feeling strong enough that it enables us to do something immediately? The answer is in the negative for the majority of individuals. Shame is productive only if it results in some difference. Otherwise it is just a momentary spark that dies away after a period a time.
How many of us are really concerned about the worrying issues that come to our attention? We express our indignation on Twitter or Facebook, say that more stringent action must be taken, praise the judgement if there is one …and then? The unpleasant memory still lingers in some cases, but most of our lives are the same as before.
This shows that we are not as much affected by the happenings around us as we should be. How many people participate in protests and vigils, take part in public petitions or start / volunteer with organizations working for social justice or any other cause they are interested in? Only a few amongst us are inspired by their feeling of shame to change the reality they encounter.
I am not denying the importance of expressing criticism. Criticism voiced by the people shows that they are not oblivious to their surroundings; it shows that they care about values like equality and justice and will not remain silent. In that way, criticism is powerful. But when criticism is combined with action, it becomes invincible. This will be more effective in bringing about a revolution.
I also realize that lately, there have been more protests than ever before and that there are many people who work as part of organizations that empower common people. This is something to be happy about, but shouldn’t many more of us follow their path? Shouldn’t we get inspired by their stories of change? When something condemnable has occurred in a society which we are a part of, all of us should contribute to make sure that it never happens again. Why must only some people struggle for issues that are important to all of us?
I am struck by the fact that we talk of deaths so impersonally. We read about traffic accidents or terrorist attacks, feel sad and forget about it. Can we even imagine the agony of the family members? I believe we are so insulated from these incidents that we don’t care about them unless something similar strikes at our door. Man is a social being. How can he be so selfish that he doesn’t care about what happens to his fellow beings?
A few days back, I heard about an accident in which a school boy was terribly injured. When I was on the way to school the next day, I almost felt guilty for being happy when he was suffering. Then came the bitter realization: whatever happened to him, the world will still go on as before.I felt angry at that, at the fact that none of us will be affected by the accident other than his family.
But it mustn’t be like that. The world cannot just go on. We need to fight together to ensure that it does not go on. I have always believed in the power of democracy; in the ability of people to be instruments of change. If many unite for action, anything can be achieved. Let us all come together to turn our shame into a really revolutionary sentiment.