During the prevalent turmoil in the country, when one finds it difficult to recover from the shock of Saleem Shahzad’s death and Sarfraz Shah’ extra-judicial killing, many people shrug their shoulders when you try to discuss the present situation of the country with them. They claim that they can’t do anything about it. However, I absolutely disagree with this view point.
There are numerous examples in the history of the world which prove that collective actions of individuals ranging from mass protests to going on a hunger strike en masse have triggered change. Consumer boycotts and other forms of pressure can also be effective. Individuals have made a difference by refusing to eat tuna fish that does not bear the “dolphin safe” label.
During 2003, citizens in Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Slovenia decided directly what their country’s foreign policy should be when a majority of the voters in each consented to their country’s membership in the EU.
The year before, the people of Gibraltar opted to remain a British dependency, the Swiss voted by referendum to join the United Nations and Irish voters agreed to the ratify the Treaty of Nice. The ability of citizens to make direct decisions about foreign policy is becoming common in democracies.
The point is that you can stand up and be counted by voting, protesting, joining issue-oriented groups, donating money to causes you support or even by having your thoughts recorded in a political poll. Few individual actions are enough to significantly alter the political stage. However, the sum of many smaller actions can and does make a difference. We shouldn’t consider politics or the policies that govern our country as a ‘spectator sport’; rather we should remain vigilant about what’s going on around us and responsibly distinguish between right and wrong. There is a need to be proactive about the present situation of the country instead of shrugging one’s shoulders and saying, “We can’t do anything about it.”
This was originally published in Pakistan Today newspaper on June 20, 2011.