Can an individual have an significant impact on the community? Of course. Every time you see a name in a history textbook, you’re looking at someone who has made some kind of change in their world. Regardless of how significant their name is, they made a change of some kind. Maybe a better question to ask would be why or how they made that change. What separates these names from any other name? Why is it that these people have made a change, and not everyone else? To say that anyone has the ability to make a significant change in society is too perfect, too idealistic. In truth, not everyone has the capacity or even the chance to make a change. To change the world, one must have the right conditions and the right traits. In short, it is equal parts luck and preparation. In a sense, there are filters that separate those who lead and those who follow.
To begin, we should outline the traits that these leaders have. They must be brave. There are countless instances when a great majority of people are uneasy about something, but they won’t speak out in fear that the masses will reject them. Next, they must be persistent. People must push towards their goals if they wish to make a difference. Nothing simply happens over night. Leaders must stand behind their views when nobody else will. This is the first filter. Without these two traits, they simply won’t be able to lead others. Of course, there are many other traits that are worth having. Leaders require a degree of political strategy, self control, and social skills, but bravery and persistence are required.
These traits can be observed many times over in history. In a more recent context, Malala Yousafzai embodies these traits perfectly. She lived in Pakistan when it became occupied by the Taliban in 2008. The Taliban enacted laws that took away from the people’s rights, especially from the female population. Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin, was teacher who criticized the Taliban’s decision to ban education for women. The BBC went to Ziauddin to do a report on the situation, and asked the local populace for a young female volunteer to share their perspectives on the situation. Many people rejected due to fears that they would be hunted by the Taliban, and after over a month, Malala decided to become an anonymous blogger for the BBC. Her blogs brought the social injustices of Pakistan into a global view and brought in much attention. Sadly, it also made her infamous amongst the Taliban, and, in 2012, a gunman attempted to assassinate her. Malala showed bravery by speaking out against the Taliban. She also showed persistence, as she had begun blogging when she was only in seventh grade, and continued to blog for many years onward. She also held countless interviews and public events, eventually revealing her identity and putting herself at more risk for the sake of her cause.
For one to create change, they must either find something worth fixing, or something that needs improving. More often than not, it is the former that sparks significant change. People often find corruption, and social perversion everywhere in society, but there is a large difference between noticing and taking action. The few that take action are those most deeply affected by it. This is the second filter. There are many people out there with the right traits, but they have nothing that they see worth changing.
Again, this is a key component in the lives of social revolutionaries. One prime example is the famous Martin Luther King Jr. He led America towards racial equality by holding peaceful demonstrations. All of his actions were fueled by the cultural injustice of America at the time. He saw how the white population expressed their anger and forced it upon the black demographic. It is because this issue directly affected him that he took action. In a short passage from “The Language of Composition,” Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter to Birmingham Jail” was briefly discusses. This letter was made as a result of King’s incarceration. In this letter, King responds to criticisms made by local clergymen. The clergymen intended to portray King as an almost destructive force and tried to stop the racial demonstrations in the city. Because the clergymen’s letter tried to directly hurt King’s reputation, he responded by writing a letter that nullified the arguments made by the clergymen and strengthened the racial equality movement. His letter also served as an example of the effectiveness of peaceful protest, encouraging others to join in his cause.
Another instance might be found in the literary classic, “The Scarlet Letter,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this short novel, there is a constant conflict between the main character, Hester, and the the small community which she calls home. In the beginning of the story, the community shuns Hester as an adulterer for a crime committed prior to the opening of the story; however, Hester ends up being seen as a benevolent and respected women later in her life as she helps her community and services others. Through her constant kindness and hard work, she redeems herself and changes the opinions of the community. Though her actions may be relatively insignificant, they prove that individuals can create change no matter how grand or small a scale.
Now there are countless other filters. For instance, society must have a willing population of people who support this change. If someone poses a heavily radical idea, not many people will be willing to support it. People must pursue a goal that is fairly reasonable and achievable. There is also the fact that opponents of change are inevitable. In some cases, the opponents are simply vocal opponents. In the feminist movement during and after World War II, those who opposed equal rights spoke out against it, but maintained a fairly calm response. Meanwhile, the movement for racial equality in 1960’s America was meant with physical harassment and the infamous “Jim Crow Laws.” In these times, black men were often assaulted in public, leading to the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, a terrorist group aimed at white supremacy. As shown earlier, in Malala Yousafzai’s story, some opponents of change will go as far as attempting assassination just to prove their point.