Activists – Give them a break..
Everyone knows ‘social change’ is a good thing worth working for right? Everyone knows they can make a difference in their conditions with a little effort on their part, and you don’t need someone to give alms of change. But do they, really?
Let me give you an example.
We all learnt the human needs pyramid in school. If you don’t remember this obscure little piece of information, let me give you a rough idea. At the base are the basic needs for modern human existence; food & water, a home & clothes. Among those at the next level are hygiene needs, which almost always go hand in hand with the basic three, but for some reason have been pushed to a less important level.
But we all know what unhygienic living conditions can do to a person!
I have been to the Attidiya slums on an ‘active citizenship training’ project and have been appalled at the state of the hygiene conditions there. The canal that runs through the colony is a putrid green with polythene, and other junk floating down through it. It’s so full of dirt it’s almost stagnant. The houses are surrounded by their own garbage.
We who are schooled and actually live in the Asian cultural backgrounds believe that cleanliness is akin to divinity, and these people too know of these old sayings. But they litter their own living spaces and what’s more, tech their children to do the same. The little kids I taught just dropped their pencil shavings and scrap paper on the floor, without a second glance at the lonely little dustbin by the door.
Why is this? People can make excuses, the authorities don’t provide for proper garbage disposal etc etc… but that’s not the case.
These people can actually do quite a lot with their litter, for example, teaching their kids not to just litter the environment, keeping the area around their houses clean, burning some of the garbage such as paper and dried leaves, and burying the decomposable materials such as left over food or fruit peel so as to make manure… an enterprising person can actually sell the composed manure. It’s actually quite possible as a community initiative. There is lots of free space that although can’t be used for habitation, can be used for such an enterprise.
But, these human beings, who have the basic intelligence of a human being but do not seem to be using it, do not bother. They wait for everything to fall into their laps, while a few concerned individuals, a very few at that will scream their guts out, all to no avail. If money is the motivation, then as suggested above even cleaning up your environment can be turned into a small income generating initiative, with little or no financial cost. Just some diligence, a bit of physical exertion, and a commitment to cleanliness, which is surprisingly lacking, would do the trick.
And teaching your children to be clean, how hard can that be?
For those of you who say, no the authorities have to teach them, tell them, provide them with proper facilities, the human mind is the biggest facility we have, and the basics of cleanliness of a home and living space in Asia is knowledge handed down to every woman, girl and now, even men and children. We know it because it is embedded in our beliefs and our ancestral knowledge. We keep our places of worship clean because of such knowledge, so why must the home, the temple of any human heart, go uncared? Why must we wait until change falls at our doorsteps, and not invite it in before?
Which brings me to my point… is it just a few who are actually concerned about living conditions of these people? Why can’t they take the initiative to change their own lives for the better? Why wait till someone else, who has no connection with their lives, such as an activist, comes along and tells them what to do? Applying some basic human intelligence, with which are all gifted, will solve a lot of problems, and give a lot of these poor activists whoa are shouting themselves hoarse a much-needed holiday.
Nipuni is a core group member of Beyond Borders Sri Lanka and a student of law, who makes occasional appearances on channel eye during prime time news hours. She likes to think of herself as being ‘very enthusiastic about the environment’.