During university, I had a hilarious and smart friend named Muneeb who thought the lyrics to Kanye West’s hit song “Power” included a verse that purportedly said, “Power…and controoool.” Of course, it was misheard (and fantastic) but it still rings true for me. When you are a person in power, you need to know how to control it before the rapacity for it consumes you, as in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Or…can you control it? Will power just consume you ultimately?
Recently, a person in power told me, verbatim, “You cannot change the world.” This person followed this comment by telling me that I could change the world only a little, and only by changing others one at a time. (Oh, and that since I could also be a mother, this could probably contribute to my worth.) Basically, whenever I asked a question or attempted to explain my situation, I was responded to thusly:
This commentary and its flowery delivery astounded me to no end. Despite this person and their insistence that change can only happen based on groupthink, I completely and utterly disagree. Change can happen in anyone, at anytime. When one person changes, the whole world changes because of that person’s perspective. Change happens every single day because of individuals and because of groups. Change relies not on a single group or a single person, but on the singularity of purpose divulged. Basically, change goes as high as you can dream it. Is it idealistic? Yes. Is it stupid? No, I don’t think so. Is it realistic? If you can dream it, there is a way. You might fail and blunder and fall, but there is more than one way even. This world was built by dreamers and foolish thinkers who triumphed over ridiculous, some say impossible odds.
Remember when people used to think the world was square? How about when many, even scholars, believed the universe revolved around earth? Yes, the Italian Renaissance heralded in many great thinkers, one of which was Mr. Galileo Galilei who, through observation and theory, that heliocentrism existed. What was his just reward during his lifetime? Inquisition then house arrest. Under the guise of religion, groupthink extinguished someone who dared to think differently. Let’s let Galileo speak for himself, shall we? “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual” (Galileo,Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men 1859). Galileo also reasoned that a God who blessed him with intellect would probably want him to use it. I agree. I believe God gave us discernment and the ability to think for ourselves for a reason, not just to follow the crowd. The more we herd and bully each other into sharing the same old, antiquated ideas, the farther we drive ourselves into the pit of ignorance.
I’m currently reading a beautiful compilation called Small Acts of Resistance by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson. Through the many true narratives of people using their lives to change the world, I have realized how wrong that certain person of power is. Individuals, whether in a small dedicated group or as simple small numbers, have strength far beyond their frail human forms. Individuals are amazing. Sure, I’m preaching in direct contrast to the stolid, numbing disinterest in Fight Club that Tyler Durden so aptly put, “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.” I would beg to differ, beyond this millennial drift into apocalyptic dread. Perhaps we all can’t be a Galileo or a Nelson Mandela, but you can be you. No one in the history of mankind, present, past or future can ever have a perspective as unique or as genuine or as brave as your own. Of course, there must be measure in madness. Uniqueness does not guarantee safety or kindness. We need more of that. We need to teach more of that. We need more peace through attentive care of our neighbors–proximal, global or otherwise. I’d hope that our own dreams are a bit less selfish. Perhaps less about money and objects, and more about bigger things. People, education, faith. Government, society. Respect, love, honor. More of the good stuff, less of the ignorance.
Once upon a time, a smart woman stood up to a counsel of many men and changed the world. It is not a fairy tale or just a story. It is the life of Malalai Joya, who at the ripe old age of twenty-odd years faced the loya jirga constitutional assembly to defy a regime. She was one person who stood up to warlords who have been known to kill and torture. She, one person, stood up and changed the world. In Small Acts of Resistance, she is quoted as saying, “They will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower–but you cannot stop the coming of spring.” This was a response after a total of five assassination attempts at the time. She stood up in the face of everything.
History, of course, is never gentle to those who “dissent” or who think differently. Nelson Mandela spent decades in a prison. In the Old Testament, Joseph was a dreamer who was left for dead by his own brothers. Malala Yousafzai was shot three times by a gunman while on a school bus. Desmond Tutu fled South Africa. So the story goes, but the dreamer doesn’t stop dreaming or acting. Because every dreamer has the potential to be an activist.
I recently had the pleasure and blessing to sit in on a sermon given by Jamie Taylor, the descendant of the well-known and revered Hudson Taylor of the missionary variety. His sermon, given at Island ECC on 1 Samuel, was called “Give Me a Person.” It concluded the annual Go Conference at my Hong Kong home church, and it was wonderful. Mr. Taylor prompted action, citing the story of David and Goliath. He reminded me that missions is an invitation to “stand in the gap of God’s glory.” They are front row seats, and they are free.
So, I’m talking to you Person of Power. No more conference talks, no more snarky comments, no more commentary. I only have a few words for you and people like you.
God is living. He is working. I am going. I am, I will.
You might be Goliath, but we are David.
If you stand in my way, you have no way to block the tidal wave of change coming your way.
Oh, and one more thing. I’m going to do it with a smile on my face. Change the world that is.
33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said,“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” -1 Samuel 17 ESV
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
― Nelson Mandela