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The Power of Change Lies in Your Hands

Does the power of positive change lie in your hands, or in the hands of politicians and corporates?

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Something which has baffled me for some time is that we all have the power to create positive change, yet most people seem more caught up in arguing about the problems than actually creating change.

Look at the so-called immigration crisis, for example. People argue all day about it. People could, instead, decided to improve the situation by going out there and helping with integration and job creation. You suddenly have access to a new workforce and new cultural knowledge. What are you going to do with it? You’ll also have a ton of problems on your hands, including integration, but wouldn’t it be possible to turn it into something positive? And shouldn’t the immigrants who don’t agree and would like to destroy your country simply be kicked out? And if they are, isn’t the situation with immigration suddenly slightly different?

The same goes for many things in politics — people are caught up arguing about things instead of looking for solutions.

In the past few years, people have been very caught up in terrorism. No wonder, there have been a lot of attacks. Yet, I’m always struck by the media’s report of them. They don’t talk about how to prevent the attacks, they talk about the attacks. Over and over again. And whoever blew something up must be darned pleased, because they’re getting just the attention they wanted and creating the fear they were meant to create.

What can we all do to prevent terror attacks? Getting to know everyone in town is a good start. People are less likely to get caught up in fanatic beliefs if they realize their neighbor who isn’t a fanatic, is actually pretty nice. It’s harder to blow up people you know and love. It’s also harder to become fanatical if you are influenced by different people.

You’re much more likely to die from heart disease, or cancer than you are a terror attack. So where are the news reports on how to prevent that? Wouldn’t it serve humanity to know the things you can do to prevent these diseases? Diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices can lessen the likelihood of getting these diseases by a very large percentage.

If a cancer cure is found, people will report it. Good news. But the responsibility of the everyday man, where’s that? Healthcare costs a gazillion dollars and that will be reported in the news as a problem. It’s a problem for those paying taxes for it and paying health insurance for it and it’s a problem for those who can’t afford to see a doctor. Yet, the costs of healthcare would be reduced drastically if people looked after themselves.

We can argue who is going to pay the bill for healthcare, or we can all take measures to lower the bill. Individual responsibility.

Every year in Cape Town, there’s a problem with fires in the townships. Invariably someone gets drunk, or high, falls asleep with something burning and starts a fire. Sometimes there are other causes, but the bottom line is: there are fires. Usually, these fires end up destroying several homes and costing lives. What could prevent them? A) fire alarms B) fire extinguishers. If every home was kitted out with a fire alarm, the fires would be detected much faster and if there were enough fire extinguishers, in some instances, the fires could be stopped before they spread.

This only hit me when I was looking at an article on the BBC about converting slum areas into suburbs. The article was about how inventors are looking for solutions to improve the areas and turn them into functional areas, instead of bulldozing them and rehousing people. And, amongst other things, they mentioned fire alarms.

I’m fairly sure the government in Cape Town pays a lot more to extinguish the fires, taking care of the medical emergencies and rehousing people than they would be paying for fire alarms and fire extinguishers.

I’m not saying I’m an expert on fire prevention, absolutely not, I’m just struck by how prevention is often the last thing discussed. Instead, people look to the government to stop whatever crisis is already happening.

A lot of the world’s problems have easy solutions. Take climate change. 1) Have fewer children 2) Never again buy individually wrapped food items 3) Only buy environmentally friendly cleaning products and body products, as well as consumer goods 4) Let every human being on the planet plant a tree and get some household plants.

Pretty simple, right? Apart from the fact that half of the population, or so, are struggling so hard to survive they have absolutely no idea about climate change, nor do they care about it, and another part of the world is way too lazy, or selfish, to decide to change their shopping habits. 

Of course, many people who want to do something and indeed do something, don't have the resources to do everything. I, for one, don't have the money to buy everything organic.

Still…just imagine if everyone turned around and said: I’m not buying individually wrapped goods anymore. I’m going to buy ready-made in the local delicatessen, providing my own plastic/glass containers and I’ll buy everything else by the kilo/liter also providing my own packaging. How much plastic, paper, etc. would that save per year? Imagine Starbucks banning paper cups, for example, and McDonald's banning takeaway packaging. How much would that alone do for the environment?

The thing is, people will wait for Starbucks and McDonald’s to do that, but they could just show up at Starbucks with their reusable cup. They could instigate the change. But people want someone else to take charge.

There are so many solutions, yet people seem intent to spend most of their time arguing over whether climate change is real or not, and if it is real, what the politicians should do about it. Do something about it yourself, instead.

Most of us can’t afford to do everything — but most of us can do something. And if a couple of billion people did something, things would change.

I’m not saying politics aren’t important, nor that reporting the news isn’t important, I just think that often people get so lost in things like commenting on Donald Trump’s latest tweets that they don’t realize that they have an opportunity to do something more important. Like actually counteracting the tweets they’re so busy following.

Of course, it’s important to tell leaders if you think they’re doing harm, but you have to do more than that if you want to create change.

When Bob Dylan, back in 1964, released a song stating that “the times, they are a-changin’” he was right. The truth is, the times are always changing. The question is: are you creating the change, or just following it? Are you a slave to the problems or a leader of the solutions?

The same thing applies in our own lives. Either we think about and debate our problems, or we focus on the solutions. After all, if not everyone else has the same problems, there must be a way out of them. 

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