Social Justice is Inconvenient [Mandy Siu]

Don't start a revolution, join one!It took me a while to get started on this article, but I finally gave up on trying to come up with a great post on personal change and went with what I know best: social justice. I’m an activist by profession and passion so it’s hard for me not to talk about politics whenever I can.

Changing the big picture

Social justice is inconvenient because it requires change not just on the individual level but on the community, regional and national level, and ultimately the global level. Strangely enough though, the more people you can get to change, the easier the situation becomes. Why? Well, Grace’s post on group mentality to change is a great example of this logic but also, social movements essentially mean a group of people working towards one common cause. The momentum alone is enough to affect change. For a lot of people, myself included, it feels like the burden of responsibility is too much and it’s incredibly difficult to want to continue working towards that bigger picture because any kind of movement is slow and filled with squabbles and challenges-much rather like life.

Social justice is also inconvenient because the end results usually don’t measure up to any standard of success. Rather, it doesn’t adhere to any one set of standards considering movements of any kind of magnitude takes on a life of its own and given enough time, becomes sluggish and bogged down in logistics, details and conflicts. Movements diverge and become separate entities and create what we like to call the “silo effect” where half a dozen organizations all with the same or similar mandates end up competing for limited resources from the same group of funders, jealously guarding their work. If that isn’t inconvenient, I don’t know what is.

Don’t start a revolution, join one

The good news is that whatever inconvenience social justice poses, the ultimate goal of making the world a better place for all to live in is worth pursuing. Personal change gives you the motivation to pursue your social justice dreams (whatever they may be) but if you’re like me and not particularly interested in redefining the issue, join the movement. There are, after all, half a dozen or so organizations of your choice to join and to help out by utilizing the awesome skills you picked up while undergoing your personal change. And trust me, they need all the enthusiastic passionate help they can get. So if you’re intimidated by the big picture and feel confused, don’t try to start a revolution-join one instead.

Mandy SiuAUTHOR BIO: Mandy is a 24-year-old social activist living in Canada, wandering aimlessly through the internet looking for the meaning of life. She has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, which is, incidentally, also her passion (political science, not the degree). She currently works for a non-profit organization whose mandate is human rights education through the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her collaborative blog project, tentatively titled Sensical Politics, is in the works and should be unveiled on Canada Day (July 1). Reach out and give her a shout on Twitter today!


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10 Responses
  • Sam Reply

    Mandy, I think you say it all in this one sentence: “The good news is that whatever inconvenience social justice poses, the ultimate goal of making the world a better place for all to live in is worth pursuing.” I couldn’t agree more. Often the most difficult things to accomplish are the most rewarding in the end. Great post!

    • Mandy Reply

      Hey Sam!

      Thanks. I think the truth of the matter is simply that old chestnut, nothing worth doing is easy. It’s a cliche because it’s true and because we all know the value of hard work and perseverance.

      Cheers!

  • Sam Reply

    Mandy, I think you say it all in this one sentence: “The good news is that whatever inconvenience social justice poses, the ultimate goal of making the world a better place for all to live in is worth pursuing.” I couldn’t agree more. Often the most difficult things to accomplish are the most rewarding in the end. Great post!

    • Mandy Reply

      Hey Sam!

      Thanks. I think the truth of the matter is simply that old chestnut, nothing worth doing is easy. It’s a cliche because it’s true and because we all know the value of hard work and perseverance.

      Cheers!

  • Matt Reply

    Mandy – There is something to be said for the collective spirit isn’t there? The power of people coming together and uniting for the common good. It’s exactly what we’ve seen here. If I would have attempted to tackle this topic from so many different angles myself, I would have failed, I wouldn’t have seen results that came close to what we’ve witnessed over the past month. There is power in numbers, and that can be said for almost any cause.

    We get so caught up in change and we think we have to do it all ourselves. We think we have to always bring about change in the world, but the truth is, there are probably a multitude of other people out there who are passionate about the same things you are. We don’t always have to start the revolutions, we can join in on those that are already ongoing. It’s ok to be unoriginal when it comes to being a catalyst of change, in the end, as long as your DOING, your living.

    Thank you so much for being a part of this Mandy. It’s been a pleasure meeting you and getting to know you!

    • Mandy Reply

      Hey Matt,

      There definitely is. Collective spirit is basically what most non-profits in the human rights field tries to do by building a community but it’s a pity, like I said, that there is a bit of a silo effect going on. It’s funny how it happens because a lot of them are pitted against each other for limited resources and it’s kind of like capitalism in a microcosm (if we were being simplistic about the analogy) where everyone competes for limited resources to put out the same product only differently. It’s frustrating as hell but at the same time, you end up coming across people who take what they have and do really amazing things with it.

      The whole “be the follower” thing was inspired by that strange but funny movie Idiocracy (Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph) where Luke Wilson’s character stated that in the phrase, “Lead, follow or get out of the way”, he was the guy that “got out of the way” but he ended up having to step up in the end. I really like the phrase because it exemplifies what is happening right now.

      Most people get out of the way and stand by and watch. Given the choice of being part of the revolution as a follower or a bystander who did nothing, I rather be the follower. At least by following I can start my own steps of becoming the leader.

      Thank you very much for involving me with this, Matt. In this case, you’re the social media leader and I but humbly follow your example.

      Cheers!

      • Matt Reply

        Agreed Mandy – now if we could only get more observers to make the transition into followers we could really see some amazing things happening. So many people are standing on the sidelines wondering ‘How can I do it all?’ when all they really have to do is join in with an ongoing movement and encourage others to do the same. Thanks again, and gracias for the kind words over on the GYA blog!

  • Matt Reply

    Mandy – There is something to be said for the collective spirit isn’t there? The power of people coming together and uniting for the common good. It’s exactly what we’ve seen here. If I would have attempted to tackle this topic from so many different angles myself, I would have failed, I wouldn’t have seen results that came close to what we’ve witnessed over the past month. There is power in numbers, and that can be said for almost any cause.

    We get so caught up in change and we think we have to do it all ourselves. We think we have to always bring about change in the world, but the truth is, there are probably a multitude of other people out there who are passionate about the same things you are. We don’t always have to start the revolutions, we can join in on those that are already ongoing. It’s ok to be unoriginal when it comes to being a catalyst of change, in the end, as long as your DOING, your living.

    Thank you so much for being a part of this Mandy. It’s been a pleasure meeting you and getting to know you!

    • Mandy Reply

      Hey Matt,

      There definitely is. Collective spirit is basically what most non-profits in the human rights field tries to do by building a community but it’s a pity, like I said, that there is a bit of a silo effect going on. It’s funny how it happens because a lot of them are pitted against each other for limited resources and it’s kind of like capitalism in a microcosm (if we were being simplistic about the analogy) where everyone competes for limited resources to put out the same product only differently. It’s frustrating as hell but at the same time, you end up coming across people who take what they have and do really amazing things with it.

      The whole “be the follower” thing was inspired by that strange but funny movie Idiocracy (Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph) where Luke Wilson’s character stated that in the phrase, “Lead, follow or get out of the way”, he was the guy that “got out of the way” but he ended up having to step up in the end. I really like the phrase because it exemplifies what is happening right now.

      Most people get out of the way and stand by and watch. Given the choice of being part of the revolution as a follower or a bystander who did nothing, I rather be the follower. At least by following I can start my own steps of becoming the leader.

      Thank you very much for involving me with this, Matt. In this case, you’re the social media leader and I but humbly follow your example.

      Cheers!

      • Matt Reply

        Agreed Mandy – now if we could only get more observers to make the transition into followers we could really see some amazing things happening. So many people are standing on the sidelines wondering ‘How can I do it all?’ when all they really have to do is join in with an ongoing movement and encourage others to do the same. Thanks again, and gracias for the kind words over on the GYA blog!

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