- “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Martin Luther King Jr.
My son and I recently went to see the movie Selma; it’s about Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. It was an exceptionally moving film, very sad but also incredibly uplifting. At the end of the movie everyone there was so touched that the whole audience clapped enthusiastically. Most people stood up still clapping and many of us were in tears. I’ve met and read of lots of people over the years who express such deep admiration for such outstanding heroes like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and others who have fought repression, inhumanity, and prejudice and sacrificed so much to make the world a better place.
Yet, I find it surprising and perplexing that many of these same people say and do nothing or very little, even in the most minor of ways to combat and challenge the many gross human rights abuses, inequality and cruelty that exist around us in our community, our society and in the world. I consider that a lot of these injustices continue to persist primarily because most people turn a blind eye to them, just ignoring and neglecting them and don’t take a stand, even in instances of small abuses, let alone glaring cases of obvious mistreatment, brutality and oppression.
The Australian government’s treatment of the marginalized and disadvantaged, its First Peoples, refugees, the poor, homeless and unemployed is appalling and unfair. These people need our empathy and solidarity. We need to help them and transform the way the authorities act towards them. The nations’ old growth forests, reefs and other natural environments and their wildlife need better protection. If the public don’t raise their voices to defend these wild places they will deteriorate and eventually die.
Even our small actions in deciding what we buy, where we travel, among other things can make a big and positive contribution to raising awareness. Imagine if people boycotted unethical companies and refuse to buy palm oil or rainforest timbers, this would help stop the destruction of precious rainforests and save the endangered wildlife that inhabit them, like Orang-utans, Rhinos, Tigers, Elephants, Gorillas and other animals. The same applies to the protection of marine environments by boycotting of countries and companies involved in unsustainable and cruel fishing practices, like Whale, Dolphin and Shark hunting.
Just talking to friends and workmates, adding your voices to radio and social media sites, writing to newspapers, magazines and politicians can bring significant pressure and have a very beneficial effect in exposing and resolving world conflicts. The tyrannical regimes that repress their people, jail and torture political prisoners and engage in serious human rights abuses, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Burma, China, Egypt and Pakistan fear this publicity and support. Likewise those countries that dominate and occupy other countries such as Palestine, Cyprus, Kurdistan, West Papua, Western Sahara, Puerto Rico, Tibet and other nations. I know you and I are only one person or one family, but think of the profound impact of thousands of such individuals and families acting in modest ways, such efforts can lead to real change.
If we are to really live up to a modest standard of these brave people like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, M. Gandhi, Jane Goodall, Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai and others we regard as heroes against tyranny and brutality and seek to right the appalling wrongs that exist, then we have a moral responsibility to speak up and do something to stop these abuses. Yes, admire and respect them, but also be inspired and make an effort to live like them, even if only just a little. Do something in your life, however small it may be to live up to the ethical ideals and principles that they fought for. Take a stand for civil, human and animal rights, freedom, democracy, equality and justice. Together we can make a difference. So let’s do at least our bit to change the world.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” - Martin Luther King Jr.