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COLUMN: Turn whispers of apathy into screams of action

K-J Millar urges people in the community to fight apathy

With social media and the internet such commonplace for information and misinformation, I’m sure we’ve all seen/heard the quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Folks, albeit, my research has shown this is a misattributed quote and not something he actually said, but nevertheless, it with the new year ahead reflection on this sentiment formed a thought process.

This thought was brought on while slouched deep in my couch with my fuzzy slippers warming my feet (if they are on, my brain is off). I was aimlessly scrolling through rabbit warrens of social media postings when I came across a debate fuelled by a young person commenting on the pointlessness of caring about where city council spends money. The comment sparked enough electrical current through my eyes to my brain to jolt me upwards into a posture erect sitting position of attention.

After absorbing the conversation on the small screen in my hand, and trying to sort organized thoughts while waiting for my flabbergasted breath to return, I realized the comment came from one of two places. One - Lack of life experience or two-general apathy. I chose option three, a combination of both.

To be clear, this is not about where the city spends money – but about the general apathy that is witnessed in the world. The general feeling of ‘nothing’s going to change — so why bother.’

On one hand, time and time again, I see and I hear expressions of ‘It’s just the way it is …’, ‘It’s always been that way…’, or ‘They (whoever) will do what they want …”.

This is blatant apathy. With apathy, there is no action.

On the other hand, I see and I hear some community members raising their voices to express outrage at situations and demanding change. They are vocal and sometimes spicy in their emotive language.

Sadly, this is more often than not on social media where many are braved enough by anonymity to be keyboard warriors in chat groups or in public postings. When approached for official comment they back down in fear of social reprisals.

I suggest that this is disguised apathy – showing you care about an issue, but not caring enough to stand behind your words of conviction to put your cares into action.

I want to see people act and be fighters for what they believe. I want the underdog battled for whether it’s children’s mental health, education, tenant rights, new immigrant advocacy, or accessibility issues. I believe to obtain change one needs to turn apathy, disguised or otherwise, into action. We need voices for those who can not be heard.

While I do not want to create oppositional groups of dissent or pit person against person, I do believe that each member of this community has at least a whisper of a voice. Those whispers threaded by vocal cords of unison can become a scream loud enough to be heard.

I do believe in strength in numbers, and if like-minded people come together and put their words into action, then any change is possible — whether it be for lack of housing, municipal spending, government transparency, human rights, public health issues, employment issues, or historical happenings where wounds are still bleeding.

Come out from behind your keyboards, stand tall, raise your voices, follow the procedures that need to be followed, write letters, sign petitions but turn your apathy into action.

Most of all in the new year ahead let come together to “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” – Not Gandhi.