One voice can make a difference.
It is easy to look at circumstances, to evaluate your chances of success, and to question why you would risk failure or go against the odds. It’s common to wait for someone else to discover the same solution that you have already figured out before you share your findings with a broader audience. It’s not unusual to want acceptance more than the best outcome.
Billy Joel famously wrote of the Marines on the ground in Vietnam in Goodnight Saigon, holding onto each other in their struggle to survive what was undoubtedly the worst experience of their lives,
And we would all go down together
We said we’d all go down together
Yes we would all go down together
No matter the outcome and often in spite of the outcome, there is something deeply affirming, deeply satisfying, and innately human about not being alone. So strong is this drive for togetherness within the human experience that it can seem more rational, more acceptable, and more safe and secure to under estimate our individual ability to achieve better outcomes because of our acceptance of social norms, collective thinking, cultural influences, and the thought, “What can I do? There’s only one of me.”
It can appear in the moment that silence, inaction, indecision, and consent are at least effective in providing for self-preservation, conflict avoidance, and escaping the pressure to be right when you estimate that you have a reasonable probability of getting it wrong. And yet, it is this kind of risk aversion that empowers so many evils in the world — evils ranging from domestic abuse, to human trafficking, to political corruption, to financial meltdowns, to genocide, and more.
Whether we like it or not, the population, the collective, and the culture are made up of individuals, and the individual choices of those participating in a situation are what collectively determine the outcome of that situation. So, if every individual looks to someone else to make the judgment, inspire the consensus, take the lead, and set the direction, then the group as a whole, lacking a positive and defined vision, direction, and purpose will be susceptible and potentially even prone to the worst influences, outcomes, and norms simply because any direction is more unifying and compelling than no direction.
I remember taking a course on government and political philosophy in college and being struck by the fact that each worldview we studied made an assertion about the fundamental quality of human nature. Some believed people were fundamentally good, altruistic, social beings who would organically tend toward better solutions for the community, and some took the opposing view that people were fundamentally evil, selfish, and untrustworthy beings who would tend toward disastrous solutions unless properly controlled, restrained, and coerced. As we studied it more, I found examples that could support just about any assertion about what drives us. Fear, greed, love, vision, purpose, belief. The list goes on and on. There are so many influences, so many outcomes, so many approaches. I found myself doubting that any assertion about some sort of global human nature was accurate until I realized something that clarified every viewpoint, every worldview, and every approach to civilization, community, and society — people aren’t fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, people are fundamentally free.
There isn’t a global statement you can accurately make about every human being’s fundamental nature — right or wrong, good or evil, selfish or altruistic. However, it is universally true that every human being has choice. Even in the worst circumstances. Even in the darkest moments. Even under the most repressive regimes. Human beings are free. You have a choice.
The question is, what are you doing with your choice?
When you think about it, choosing to remain silent, choosing not to make your voice heard, choosing apathy and indifference, choosing inaction and indecision may seem like the safest and most acceptable choice because of the common human drive for acceptance. After all, you are not going to offend anyone, you are not going to confront anyone, you aren’t going to instigate any conflict or be blamed for what happens if you don’t do anything. But the fact is, if you choose this kind of lack of definition and purpose you also are choosing not to encourage or inspire anyone to rise higher, you are choosing not to heal or improve anyone’s situation, you are choosing not to defend the defenseless and those without a voice, you are choosing not to make the world a better place, and you are choosing not to have an impact on your circumstances, your community, your country, and your world.
One voice can make a difference.
It’s like Theodore Roosevelt said in his speech “Citizenship In A Republic” at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who ‘but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.'”
Just like Jesus said,
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” – Matthew 7
One voice can make a difference. Make your voice heard.