By Sharukh Vazifdar March 2010 What has truly changed within the individual in the recent past? How has the process of self-empowerment occurred and why is it spiritual? “Impossible is just a big word, thrown around by small men, who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – – Adidas advertisement In today’s world, we know that there are no boundaries or barriers to what we can do, save those that exist in our mind. Yet nothing has changed over the past century, the oceans haven’t become shallower, the continents haven’t drifted closer, the mountains haven’t grown shorter, the skies haven’t descended towards the surface, nor have people grown any stronger. If there is anything that has changed, it’s the mind of man. The mind has slowly yet surely been climbing a staircase, where each step allows it to see some more of the light, to ascend a few more inches towards its inherent nature, the unlimited. The power of one, the individual, is being realised by a greater fraction of the population every day. Today, mainstream movies like 3 Idiots broadcast messages to make education meaningful and enjoyable, and to strive for excellence in one’s chosen field, rather than toeing the parental or societal line. Ten-year-olds can make their own movies, career choices are unlimited, and retirement isn’t the end of the line. Anyone can take up a cause thanks to social networking sites, and make a difference to the state of the world. Annie Besant once said that there were two possible reactions on seeing something that was wrong. One was to say, “Someone should do something about it,” and walk on, and the other was to say, “I will do something about it.” Astutely she observes, “There is an aeon of evolution that lies between the two attitudes.” Today, more are saying, “I will do something about it,” and that is a beacon of great hope for the world. For the next revolution is an inside-out phenomenon, not an outside-in one, and only empowered individuals can participate in it. Technology being the trigger, pushing it beyond the point of stable growth, to an almost vertical exponential growth, has catapulted the individual capacity for growth as well. Another point to be noted is that since individuals are relating directly with information and technology, rather than having them routed through an authority figure such as a teacher, a parent or the government, empowerment is happening at the individual level. The zeitgeist has moved from “I can’t” to “I can and I will”. Famous Austrian psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author Victor Frankl writes in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that as long as we have the ‘why’ to live, the ‘how’ will follow. Empowering this ‘how’, all we need now is the correct ‘why’, the right reason and direction to go on. We, in India, are particularly experiencing an empowerment, which comes partially from having moved away from mental enslavement, created by centuries of foreign rule, as well as the feeling that the axis of power is moving in our direction. In a recent study, a majority of Indians felt good about being Indian and were optimistic about the future. This empowerment is, in turn, reflected in a greater confidence about our abilities, and a greater sense of self-worth. The net worth By the individual, for the individual and of the individual, that is what I like to think of the internet as. The internet, or the net, is the most powerful tool for realising your own individuality. While familiarity with the computer is all that’s required, the net throws open doors to unlimited avenues for expression and knowledge. A blog, or a ‘web log’, is a web page maintained by an individual who regularly updates it with commentary, opinions, experiences, either in text, audio or video form. Blogs are extremely popular, powerful ways to express yourself, and get your views across. The blogs of popular icons are voraciously read the world over. The advent of technology has considerably eroded the power of the media. Their word is no longer law. The bias of the fourth estate, its inability to be everywhere and its tendency to trivialise news reportage has spurred citizens to get their daily dose of news through SMS polls, amateur news photography, chat rooms, message boards, wikis, cellphone cameras and blogs. News is not only verified but also indigenously sourced from individual sources. Today, media houses encourage patrons to send them their stories, information, views, and insights so as to extend their network to the grassroots level. One of the most popular examples of citizen journalism recently, is the photography of the longest solar eclipse of the millennium that took place on January 15, 2010. Indian citizen journalism portal Meri News ranks fifth in the world in the participatory news category. Citizen initiatives seem to be the way to go when a change is required. One example of this is a group of six citizens from Mumbai who met the municipal commissioner of the BMC earlier this year, to discuss plans to solve the city’s water crisis. They have short-, medium-, and long-term plans, which can be implemented to preserve this precious liquid. The Right To Information Act, 2005, is a revolutionary step in empowering the individual to demand transparency and openness in governance. The step was taken up by the Department of Personnel and Training and the Ministry of Personal, Public Grievances and Pensions, to allow citizens access to government records. As an active step in ensuring that the government is accountable to the people, this Act has found large support from the people and was used as soon as it was enforced. Although rarely written about in the news, since it consists mainly of small individual stories that aren’t very captivating, the RTI Act has made a difference to those who have used it. A successful social audit of the rural employment scheme in Bihar helped the villagers of the Araria district learn how money was being siphoned off and shown as wages. In a similar case in Solapur, a district collector discovered a fraud running into crores of rupees through the Employment Guarantee Schemes. With an MA in Social Work, Chandrakant Sasane applied for a lecturer’s post in a Mumbai college but did not hear from them. Through the RTI Act, he found out that the Mumbai University had selected him for the job, but the college disregarded the order since he was blind. In such ways, this act is helping out the otherwise forgotten section of society to demand an answer. The do-it-yourself phenomenon, which started off as an attempt to repair rundown American homes, has branched out into diverse fields. There are self-published books, artists releasing self-funded albums, independent computer game developers, motorcycle assembly and modification kits, and so on. Self-reliance and self-determination are on the rise in any field of life. People are no longer satisfied with rote living; they want to take control of their lives. Jobs need to be more than just a means to earn; they need to stimulate the person at a deeper level. Vacations are not just about relaxation and sightseeing; people want to experience the soul of the locale. The shedding of an overt need for structure and control in one’s life, is allowing more flexibility and balance, helping gain more satisfaction and meaning from life. Just as fire burns out the dross and allows only the essence to rise up, when we evolve, we shed part of our dross nature and grow lighter. What surrounds us is only a reflection of what lies inside us. When all we feel inside is fear or anxiety, everything we do will reflect it. But when we feel empowered, everyone around us, our society, will show the same. It is through this feeling, when each one realises their latent power, their latent strength that the individual rises and raises society along with him.
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