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How to Make the World a Better Place a Ripple at a Time

Making the world a better place is far easier than people imagine. They think of it in terms of having to change the whole world, and it just seems too big. You can't change the whole world all at once. In order to do that you would have to be able to stop time and rearrange everything and everyone on the planet. This is, of course, impossible. You would then have to reach into everyone's psyche and give them an instant brainwash to change their way of thinking. Again, impossible. You would also have to take away free will, and humans are naturally resistant to that sort of control over long periods of time. They tend to rebel.

The only way to change the world is one small step at a time. One ripple in a pond, fed by another ripple, and then another. Without continuous feeding of the ripples they tend to peter out. However, the ripples that we make tend to bump into other people who are making their own ripples, so sometimes even one small action on our part will have a vast and unknowable impact on the world.

Let's step away from metaphors and take a look at what this means in the real world. I write a lot of stuff for feminism, or perhaps 'equalism' would be a better term for it. I'm a staff writer for a feminist magazine, I have a blog where I rant about things, in the past I wrote on SearchWarp, and now I'll be writing on Soul of Wit here. The fact is, I almost never leave my chair. My activism is confined almost solely to what can be done on a computer. However, I have made a positive and measurable impact on the things I believe in. It's a small one, but any impact is better than none at all.

Getting down to the nitty gritty of it all, I'll give details regarding that impact to show how a little can go a very long way. Connecting with various feminist groups online, however unintentionally in a lot of cases, my writing is being shared and re-posted by some groups with a fairly large following. I have some verified followers on Twitter now (people with the little blue check-mark symbol because they're known personalities of some sort), too, but I'm not sure I consider Twitter particularly successful as a marketing strategy. There is a flood of tweeting going through everyone's feed, so it's hard to even get your Tweets seen by the people you're trying to connect with.

On Facebook, however, I've stumbled across my articles being re-posted by pages such as Third Wave Feminism and Equality for Women. Equality for Women has over 25,000 followers now, and the news feed on Facebook is a much more effective one than Twitter's. I get very noticeable spikes in page views every time a group on Facebook shares my pieces, even if it's a group with only a couple hundred followers. Now, that's all well and good for an ego boost, but it's meaningless in the general scope of things when it comes to changing the world. The real change happens when people start talking about those things.

Something I strive for as diligently as possible is a note of reason in my work. I have some strong beliefs and opinions, but I try to temper them by remembering that not everyone is going to agree with me, and if I start out by attacking the very people I'm trying to persuade I will never get anywhere. As much as I try to be even-toned in expressing my opinions, I know I'm not always successful, and even if I were there are bound to be some people who are offended. I've had some very nasty comments posted, not only on my blog, but also on the articles I've written for the feminist magazine.

When this happens, of course, it bothers me. I also have to sit there and ponder possible reasons and solutions. In some cases there are simply going to be unreasonable people that you just can't avoid, but there are also the ones that might have a point. I may have failed in my efforts to communicate, and if I have then I need to figure out how to improve upon it. As my writing becomes more visible it's attracting the MRAs (men's rights activists). Some of them can get pretty intimidating, issuing death and rape threats to feminist writers. I have not received those threats, thankfully, but it doesn't mean that I won't. I can't base my writing on whether or not it's going to attract those sorts, of course, but it never hurts to keep the possibility in mind.

The fact of the matter is, some men are angry for good reason. No, there is never a reason good enough that they should be uttering threats, but I do empathize with men who may be getting the short end of the stick. When it comes to the patriarchal system that is currently in place in society throughout the world, men generally get the easier road to travel. Not always, but for the majority of time they do. One article I read, written by a white male, likened it to difficulty settings in video games. If you were a white, heterosexual, cisgender male you started out life on the easiest setting. If you were a black, transgender, lesbian female, you were playing on probably the highest difficulty level.

That isn't to say that heterosexual men don't encounter difficulties as they play their life game. There are the ones who get divorced from a woman who happens to have an uncontrollable crack habit, yet the judge somehow thinks that woman is better suited to parenting than he is. In fact, men very rarely get custody, or even joint custody, no matter how terrible the mother might be. There are far too many women out there who are terrible mothers, yet still get the benefit of the doubt in a custody hearing. Patriarchy has its downside even for men, and it's one thing that feminists are trying to change to help them, even though some men may not realize it.

As an admittedly biased writer who leans a certain way, I still feel empathy for anyone who is getting the shaft in this world, and the real way to change the world is through empathy. It won't work with every single person we encounter. Not everyone is equipped to back off on their aggression and return the favour by making an effort to see your point of view. However, when it does work it promotes communication between two opposing forces that can make all the difference in how we see one another.

I've been in plenty of conversations with foam-at-the-mouth feminists, and as much as I might agree with a majority of what I hear, I know too well that their approach is not going to work. They can get as angry about injustice as they want to, but the second they starting spewing rage they lose their argument. There are plenty of times I've wanted to go on an absolute rant, erupting with venom at my adversaries, but I don't. I don't start swearing and name-calling because it's completely counter-productive. If I can't have a reasonable debate with someone, I simply stop talking to them. In fact, there are times when I don't bother to engage them in the first place. By the tone of a comment, and any insults included within, I know that the effort would bear no fruit and would result in nothing more than wasting my time; something that would be better spent on speaking with more reasonable people.

Case in point for this would be some comments I received on an article I wrote about wage inequality where I was accused of not reading the reports I was quoting, which was entirely untrue. Not only had I read the reports, but I also have a background in reading financial reports, so I understood better than most what I was reading. Obviously the comment was left by someone who hadn't bothered to read the reports themselves, or simply couldn't understand them, so there was no point in arguing about it. I also got some ridiculous remarks about choices made by women that made them earn less money, when in fact the reports had accounted for that very thing where appropriate. Yet another person who hadn't read anything through, but felt as though they had to put in their two cents just on 'principle'.

These are people that I run into all the time now. It just goes with the package of speaking your mind where others can hear what you say. I get some very supportive comments, too, though, and that's where change comes into play. I've had debates with more reasonable people on the same subjects, where I've stressed the fact that I understand the point they're making, and generally the response has been so positive that I know I've made just the slightest difference to one person's view. The defensive starts to abate, and an open door is created in someone's mind.

For the record, let me state that I am not always successful at following this advice. However, being reasonable, being empathetic, and being willing to listen, without compromising our own values - that is how the world is changed. It just won't happen overnight.

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Rain Stickland is a Canadian writer with a passion for ferrets and a love for sentient creatures. She produces The Kovacs Perspective, hosted by Steve Kovacs.

Her professional background includes freelance writing, consulting, technical writing, procedures manuals, payroll and HR, investment analysis, and accounting. She owns a company that develops and manufactures safe pet toys, and donates the proceeds to ferret shelters in Canada and the US.

Rain's writing background includes topics such as stem cell transplants and feminism, and position papers on charitable organization development. She's also a staff writer for a popular online feminist publication. A crime-fiction series is in the works, as she continues to contribute to various online and print publications.

Follow her on Twitter @RainStickland

You can follow her blog at: Torrential Rain

Future articles can be found at: Soul of Wit where she will contribute articles formerly written for SearchWarp.com.

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