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Lara Smallman
Campaigner, film-maker, blogger (London, United Kingdom)

Self-taught film-maker interested in exploring human rights issues. See more on


Be the change you want to see in the world

Published 28th March 2010 - 5 comments - 6181 views -

Be the change you want to see in the world, wrote Mahatma Gandhi back in the day. Some years later, Holocaust victim Anne Frank infamously declared, Isn’t it wonderful that none of us need wait a moment before starting to change the world. Indeed, it is.

There’s just one problem. The altruistic gene isn't a universal one. Much of the developed world ignores these kinds of sentiments. But why?

Is it because of ignorance, I wondered? – Rather implausible given the scale of campaigns in 2010. People might not want to, but they know, albeit on a small scale, about poverty, hunger, disease and abuse of human rights in the developing world.

Perhaps having too little time is to be blamed for inaction. Hmmmm. Does it really take that long to get involved, and make a difference? I don’t think so. Only yesterday we were asked to unplug ourselves for one hour, Earth Hour; a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, An easy enough idea, surely? And so, a lack of time, I would argue, can no longer be an excuse. The clever campaigning people have been working their socks off to make it as easy as possible for us to show politicians and the rest of the world that we care.

Following in the footsteps of this, a practical and feasible action, is Global Fast Day, working with the caption hungry for changeBy giving up a meal to save a life, your sacrifice connects you more deeply. We are not armchair critics observing from afar – we jump into the fray fasting for others, your compassion grows while your budget stays the same. This brings me nicely onto another potential explanation - a lack of compassion. 

Enticing a wide-ranging audience was always going to be the biggest mountain for us bloggers to climb. Make it interesting and important, that was the advice given to us only last week. What interests me however, might bore the pants off the next person.

Why bother? – the most common response to my participation in Th!nk 2 Climate Change, and is something I hear all too often living in a prosperous, developed country. And so the last explanation I can think of, you've guessed it, is laziness. Not a lot you can do with that other than respond with why not bother? A lot of the time it is so easy, and so quick to show you care. And for the times when it takes a bit more then signing a petition, well, nobody ever said that saving the world was gonna be easy. 

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  • Daniel on 28th March 2010:

    Altruism might not be in our genes, but hardly egoism either - the most common think for humans and several other animals is to cooperate to reach a common goal.

    Maybe blogging, on the Th!nk platform and elsewhere, can help creating a sense that the world is a common project?

  • Lara Smallman on 28th March 2010:

    Absolutely. There must be a balance somewhere between doing it all and doing nothing.

    Check out this video:

  • Radka Lankašová on 05th April 2010:

    I think people like to help other people, but they somehow like the help to be concrete, “touchable” let´s say. It is easier to do it home because you can see the result of your help (new park where you can go, repared bell in the church..), than in a far-away country. Yet, I believe at the age of internet even this !obstacle” can be overcome.

  • Jodi Bush on 06th April 2010:

    I don’t think the “time poor” argument can be dismissed too lightly. Most people are up, out the door, commuting, at work, sorting out stuff at home, “having down time”, seeing family… unless you actively make the time to go out and find what’s going on beyond your day-to-day it’s unlikely that it enters your consciousness. I know that from experience. As someone who was very active in uni, after I joined work and was either on my way to or at the office for about 14hrs every day I really struggled to look beyond my own concerns. I’ve had to actively fight my apathy!

  • Lara Smallman on 07th April 2010:

    No it can’t. Time, or lack of impacts greatly on people’s actions. Then again, it’s about priorities and there are very small (and quick) ways that people can make a difference if development is something they believe in.

    After all, a lot of the time we’re only being asked to spend a couple of minutes with a petition here or a fairtrade product there…

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