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On The Internal Aspect of Societal Change

Aboody Rumman ’20, Opinion Columnist

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It is not uncommon to hear people lamenting about the condition of the world today. Whether it’s rising hate speech, unsafe living conditions or just horrible people. There is an abundance of things to point at to show how bad things are today. But nobody talks about how things got to where they are or how we can fix this.

I remember my grandfather used to tell me stories about the popular hippie trail that started at London and ended either at Kathmandu or Dhaka. Since it went through the breadth of Pakistan, the ‘hippies’ became a well-known group in Pakistan in the 50s and 60s. To spot a hippie, you needed to make sure a) they smell like marijuana or hashish b) they wore shorts even in the cold c) they didn’t know the local language.

He never complained about how the marijuana and hashish smoking foreign tourists would attack ‘our’ values. Most of his stories were funny. Often, they involved him getting some foreign tourists out of trouble with local law enforcement because of what they did in their intoxicated state. He would end up befriending most of them. A few months before his death, he told me one of his stories which did not end in the usual funny anecdote. Instead, he looked at me and said “there is no ‘other’ in people. We’re all God’s creation. A white man, a black man, a Punjabi, we are all the same in the eyes of God, so man shouldn’t judge or discriminate”.

At that time, I found the ending rather odd. But as I grew up, I realized the importance of these small lessons he would share with me. The lesson from all these lessons was that you control how you look at the world, and whatever image you have of the world, is what it will look like.

I admit this sometimes seem confusing and sounds like advocating turning a blind eye to today’s adversities. But it does not. The simple message here is, do not be so caught with the bad that you forget the good. I remember I recently saw Mehdi Hasan interviewing Professor Steven Pinker about his book Enlightenment Now in which he says the world today is much better than before. Hasan grilled Professor Pinker and he was not the only one who wanted to. While his book was critically-acclaimed, his data was questioned and there was a general reluctance in accepting his case for today’s living conditions.

The fact that we are not ready to accept anything positive about the conditions of the world today is alarming. Changing the world starts with changing your thoughts and being open to new and different things. The point I am trying to make is this: to see a better today, focus on the ‘better’ in the ‘today’. If you focus on this for long enough, there’s nothing that will stop a better tomorrow.

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On The Internal Aspect of Societal Change