The collective. It’s a powerful force and yet it is greatly underestimated. Without a doubt our world is going through unprecedented upheaval as systems and institutions that have been entrenched and in place for years face chaos and disintegration. Political structures across the globe are in turmoil, with in-fighting, dissension and finger-pointing. In the meantime the collective is watching and questioning the sanity and integrity of those elected to office and wondering how on earth we got to this point!
Recently I was watching a documentary on the current sad state of affairs in Venezuela, listening to a man complaining about the fact that the waterways that were meant to provide running water to the community were polluted and clogged with rubbish. I turned to my husband and said “why don’t they get off their backsides and do something about it instead of sitting back waiting for “them” (the authorities) to sort it out?”
Let’s face it, the days of sitting back and waiting for someone else to sort out the problems are fast disappearing. The collective holds enormous power, it just doesn’t realise it. It has the power to take back control and to make a difference.
Take the example of one Afroz Shah, a young lawyer and environmentalist in Mumbai who spearheaded a group of volunteers. Together they have cleared 5.3 million kilograms of decomposing trash and plastic from 2.5km of beach in just over 21 months. Back in 2015 he started with just the help of a neighbour, picking up trash. He was eventually joined by over 1,000 volunteers and it became the world’s largest beach clean-up project and it continues to this day. A vulnerable species of turtle has returned to start laying eggs on the beach.
Or the One Million Women initiative, a collective whose aim is to encourage women across the globe to actively reduce their carbon emissions, cut down on waste, plastic usage and pollution, constantly sharing solutions to reuse and recycle.
We can no longer sit in our little bubbles blithely oblivious to what’s going on around us. The reality is there is no “them” that will sort out the problems. They don’t have the means, the knowledge or even the inclination.
As Afroz Shah proved, there is effectiveness in numbers. Today that community is proud of their clean beach and they went on to plant 50 coconut trees and clean 52 public toilets. However he didn’t wait for volunteers to show up, he just started. Because he wanted to protect his environment and knew it would require action. That action inspired the collective to become involved and the results have been astounding.
We continue to sit back and complain about corrupt officials, outrageous cell phone costs, high prices, shoddy service, lack of service, supermarkets with ridiculous plastic packaging, the continued use of plastic straws, abuse of labour, rubbish in the streets, appalling health care services, a crumbling education system and yet we do nothing.
‘Individual efforts can bring excellence, but only collective efforts can deliver effectively’ (Narendra Modi). The truth is we can no longer rely on the ‘powers that be’ to make it happen. The collective has the power to effect positive change. As the American author and cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said “Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals.” If we want to see any kind of positive change happen, then we can no longer sit back and, from the sidelines, admire those spirited individuals who do have the courage to take on big business or the government. Who start initiatives to improve a community, save animals or reach out to those in need. We are unwilling to step up ourselves.
Getting involved does not necessarily mean you need to start participating in marches, or chaining yourself to palisade fences, but never under-estimate the impact you could make with your voice or action, and encouraging others to do the same. Teach your children who, after all, are the ones who are going to inherit this current mess!
A shout-out and deep thanks to all those who strive to make a difference in our community, who never cease to uplift, empower, inform and educate, who give a voice to the voiceless.
We appreciate you. May the support of the collective lighten your load.