Have you noticed that we haven’t really had any Gandhi-like figures around in our time. In fact, it seems that since some time around the departure of Nelson Mandela, no role model figures have been celebrated. This is particularly confusing when you consider some of the things going on in our times- take the War in Syria for example.
If the good a person has done outweighs the bad- then you should respect them as a good person and their achievements deserve to have light cast on them.
But the truth is that there are actually many of these figures around today- people who are prepared to stand up and fight for the common good of a country or group of people. What has changed is the attitudes in our society towards freedom-fighting and this has meant that these figures have gone unnoticed. Like someone Google Chrome Incognitoed all of them. Let me illustrate how people’s attitudes have changed over time using a popular example- Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi, or just Gandhi (as he is more commonly known) is world known for his fight against British colonialism in India, but perhaps better known for being one of the front-men for pacifism. The famous quote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” was birthed by him. Although many people debate the success of pacifism, vs violent protest- his success and popularity around the world is unquestioned. But it might have been if he’d been taking up this struggle in 2017.
You see, not everyone knows this but when Gandhi’s wife fell ill in India in 1944, Gandhi refused his wife treatment, because of his objection to ‘alien medicine’ (The Harvard Crimson). However, when Mahatma himself fell ill later on in his life- he accepted the same treatment that he’d denied his wife. So does this make him a bad person? Whilst these actions cast a bad light on Gandhi, his legacy still remains as the man who successful ended British rule in India.
But since then, a fundamental shift has occurred in the way we view people, public figures particularly. If Gandhi had been alive today- then I firmly believe that he wouldn’t have gained popularity around the world- and people would probably only remember him for his flaws.
So why might this have happened? The first force I blame this to is the media. Although news program’s responsibilities are not just to cast a bad light at things happening around the world- they normally do. Nowadays, the media are heavily associated with criticism, condemnation, and when they aren’t condemning actions or events, it’s normally only to shed light on local events. The second force I blame for this shift is social media. Although social media can be a fantastic tool, people also too often abuse it because of a lack of education on how to use it, and governments like the UK, who threaten the concept of independent and uncensored web- further mold the world view presented on social media, and in turn, the people who use it. An example of this would be last year, when real footage of the War in Syria was removed from YouTube whilst opinionated hate speech videos still managed to survive. When you consider all of this, it’s not hard to get an explanation as to why Gandhi wouldn’t be as popular today.
So what can we do? How can we fix or attitudes to see the good over the bad, and in turn change our own world views? Well, here are a few ideas:
- Read into current and foreign affairs stories, and take our news from a wide range of different sources.
- Read about former activists and leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi.
- Before you criticize someone, ask yourself whether the good they’ve done outweighs the bad (in most cases it’s just a simple mistake).
- Put pressure on MPs and Leaders (through petitions and emailing) to educate young people about social media, and to stop trying to confine the powers of the internet using legislation.
Hopefully these measures will help to shed more light on activists trying to fight for the common good. I realize that trying to balance the good and bad actions of one person can be confusing and hard- but I have a rule. If the good a person has done outweighs the bad- then you should respect them as a good person and their achievements deserve to have light cast on them. But that doesn’t go to say that their bad actions should go unanswered…