The “Be The Change” Cliché

Posted on August 21, 2010

By Siddhartha Roy:

When I was in New Delhi last year to attend a seven day youth summit on Climate Change, it was aptly called BADLAAV ’09 with the tag line: ‘Be The Change’. Every movement somewhere has a ‘Be The Change’ somewhere in their posters, websites or pamphlets.

In fact, a Google search gives you more than a million results ranging from soundtracks on YouTube and Tee shirt emblazoning to Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes and calls by NGOs.

The question here is not whether words move people. To say the least, they can alter the course of destiny. They have been used since time immemorial from winning battles to shaping modern society (the Preamble of India and the Declaration of Independence of the United States are some robust examples). But the symbolism of every phrase coined and its relevance to the then status quo made change possible by reaching out to the masses.

It’s not what slogan you use. It is whether you understand the ‘why’ behind it and know that it addresses the cause, the purpose you are fighting for. Let’s look at some of them and understand their background:

“Inquilab Zindabad” (literal translation: “Long Live Revolution”) – Used by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad during British rule

“Yes We Can” – 2008 U.S. presidential campaign slogan of Barack Obama

“A diamond is forever” – Everyone knows the image the words conjure up in our head.

“Go Green OR Die Young” – The slogan we adopted for our national zero carbon foot print event Chemozale ’10 earlier this year at Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

As we the youth (akin to Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades “We The People”) – dubbed the future of India – struggle to take a stand for the causes we believe in (do we?), it is important that when they shout ‘Be The Change’, they also question ‘What am I standing against?’

Have you followed the crowd to stand with a placard and shout for change or do you really wish to see the changes happening?

Let’s take the example of gay rights.

If you fight for gay rights (or even believe that sexuality is a human choice and not a state matter), are you spending time to understand their concerns and fears? Has anything been done after the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377? What is the condition of homosexuals worldwide and how has it shaped over the ages to the present?

Every cause is not just a cause. It’s an acid test to question our own belief system. Our moral values – the ones that we have been bestowed with and the ones we have ourselves devised.

So, if you support gays, would you be okay if you see increasing homosexual content on television and in print? Is your psyche equipped to accept the societal changes which would involve gays moving about freely and expressing themselves openly? Would you be okay if gays even kissed lightly in public (like most heterosexuals in gardens or pubs)?

‘Be the change’ is constantly questioning yourself. On issues. On beliefs. On customs and rituals. On the decisions you have made in the past. On the accountability of your actions.

It’s this constant quest within that would make you shouting ‘Be the change’ worthwhile. For you! And for others around you (as they will see you mirroring what you preach)!

Because only when you know who are inside and what you really believe is right/wrong (and not just stand in a crowd because there are pretty girls or free t shirts – although, on a lighter note, these can be added perks too). Then you won’t be lost but emerge as a leader with conviction and a road map.

So, the next time you write. Or fight. Know why and ‘Be The Change’!

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: The writer here has rightly highlighted that we often get into issues or support them just because others are, or just because we wish to show our participation. That is not what change is. Change will only come when you pursue one cause whole-heartedly, as the author mentioned.

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