How do we create change? How do we inspire people to engage with the world in a more positive and impactful way? How do we make people realize their power to change the status quo? Well, I’m going to share a story about how I went about it in a really bad way.
Recently a very close friend of mine was coming to visit me in Melbourne. We were messaging each other before she arrived and we were talking about the things we were going to do while she was staying with me. In particular, we were discussing shopping for clothing.
I told her that while she was in Melbourne I wouldn’t take her to the shopping mall where the big fast fashion chain stores were but would take her to stores that wouldn’t make her feel bad for shopping at them. She replied very honestly that she didn’t feel bad for shopping at chain stores. I, quite ashamedly, lost my cool.
My friend was being honest, a quality that I value almost above all other things in a friendship. But I became hot all over and immediately listed all the reasons she should feel bad. I did it with so much righteous indignation that Donald Trump would have been proud (of the amount of righteous indignation. Despite his ubiquitous presence in all things media, I still don’t know his views on shopping at fast fashion chain stores).
Sometimes you feel so passionately about something that when you hear any kind of apathy towards your cause you are quick to get your knickers in a knot. Had I forgotten that only 3 or 4 years previously, I too shopped without discern or guilt at these chain stores? What. A. Hypocrite. Gross.
One of my heroes, Satish Kumar recounts wisdom shared with him by Vinoba Bhave, the leader of a land reform movement in India inspired by Gandhi:
Opposition reduces the chances of a change of heart. Instead of creating an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding, it creates insecurity through which a man is drawn to defend himself just at the point when he should be taking a new and impartial look at society.
This sums up the mistake I had made rather eloquently. By attacking my friend, I had put her in a position where she had to defend herself. Instead of making her aware and educating my friend about where I was coming from, I bulldozed her. #epicfail
My friend, to her credit, is still my friend. During her stay we had quite a few discussions about fast fashion and its impacts on the world. My beautiful friend listened openly, asked questions and one night went through her clothes and checked all the labels to see where they were made. That meant the world to me.
Empowering people to change the way they interact with the world for the better doesn’t happen when you attack the way they live their lives now. It starts with open dialogue, awareness building and most importantly, no judgement.