By: Mehreen Omer
Jalaluddin Rumi, the inspirational 13th Century Persian poet and mystic, once said, “Yesterday I was so clever, I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself”. In a world where every young man and woman is obsessed with making an impact in the world, what better way to start than to change yourself first? But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Complaining about how corrupt the world is and making it the ultimate mission of your life to change the world, makes you feel you are putting your life to good use. But you are too busy to change your own self, or perhaps just too perfect to warrant any change, right?
Sadly the Pakistani film, ‘The System’, released just recently, only illustrated that the only way change can be brought in the society is through sheer physical power. The protagonist, born in a poor family, after being mistreated and wrongly imprisoned by a corrupt police officer who released him only after taking a handsome bribe, sets away to become an Assistant Superintendent of Police himself and fight the corrupt political and social system by the force of punches, slams and ultimately bullets, though by lawful means. This only teaches the average youth that he can only eliminate corruption in his country by becoming a police officer so that he can shoot away all the criminals. What about bringing change in the society by becoming a businessman, a scientist, or an artist, or a writer, a film-maker or even a teacher? Why does everyone have to find corruption in everyone else except his own self? Aren’t we already doing our part for the betterment of this planet by ethically doing whatever we are doing, instead of trying to correct other people?
Won’t the world become a better place if everyone starts worrying about his own self instead of others? Won’t it be much more harmonious if we realize that we are all human and just like we can’t change our habits overnight, others cannot too? But how can social change really be achieved? Not by a political revolution, for certain. Interestingly, there isn’t one way of leaving an impact in the world. Every person on this earth is unique in his way and has something unique to contribute to the world.
The irony of our times is that while an average young man is overly concerned with social and political issues and wants to play an active role in the community, he is struggling to have even a meaningful conversation with his own family. He can’t even make his own family happy, and he’s worried about making the world happy. Too often we are seduced by quantity rather than quality. We value our importance in terms of the ‘number’ of hearts we have touched, instead of the ‘depth’ those hearts have been touched with. Giving everyone a penny may be much less useful than giving one poor man a hundred bucks, because he could invest that into something and support his family independently of you. But we don’t look at it like that. We want to see our impact defined in terms of the number of lives we have benefited. Feeding one family proper food is better than feeding the entire community only a morsel for a family each. But one family is too small to wash away our sins and so we want to maximize the reach without realizing that the return on investment actually is inversely proportional to the reach. Isn’t it time then, that we reconsider our standards of social impact? Because every change begins in the heart, if one’s own heart is diseased, how can it clean that of others?Published in The Nation newspaper on 23-Jun-2014