• Polymath Weekly

Why Passivity in Times of Injustice Is an Act of Oppression

Updated: Jul 23

When in human rights history had a movement been wrong?


Were people wrong to force King John of England to sign the Magna Carta (1215) which finally recognized that English monarchy too had to abide by the law?


Was Lafayette wrong to defend the "the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man" in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) in the early stages of the French Revolution?


Were people wrong to gather in Lincoln memorial in Washington DC for the March on Jobs and Freedom (1963) and listen to Martin Luther King Jr. echo the phrase "I have a dream" 8 times?


These and other pushes for equality before us did not immediately bring about change, as some of these causes remain central to human rights movements of today. Note that the movements were not flawless: a lot of them did not aim to improve the lives of groups like women and racial and religious minorities, all of which are still on their way to achieving equality.


Even with these and other limitations, try to picture what would our lives be like right now if those who once united, spoke up and never lost hope just remained silent? Remained "neutral?" Or "uninvolved?" Or "indifferent?"


History shows that passivity has never resulted in change.


It is important to understand that for some people, under certain circumstances, speaking out is not always a safe option. However, for those with a privilege of choosing between taking action and sitting back to "observe," ask yourself: who benefits from your silence? Does it benefit those you care about? What about people that are being impacted by these issues? Are you uplifting calls for action or are you hindering progress?


That being said, physical protests and campaigns are not the only ways contribute to fighting for things we care about. Whether the issue is gun violence, climate change or workers' rights, doing thorough research and encouraging your community (no matter how small) to involve themselves in change is perhaps the best place to start. Taking small steps right now could bring us closer to better future, for all people.


"We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."

- Howard Zinn











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