Thursday, March 7, 2013

Online action CAN bring real change

This is in reply to the statement I hear now and then about internet activism, clicking on online petitions, forwarding emails, sharing links, taking pledges etc not making any real, practical change in the world.

I'd like to say here that the statement above is false. Not that I'm saying the opposite is true, but that the statement above is false in the sense that it is incomplete and by lack of being complete, it gives a false message to a reader who may think that it is complete.

By personal experience I have seen that merely an email campaign that includes writing stuff, putting stuff together, and emailing large numbers of people, inviting people to participate simply online, while at the time simply living my normal life and doing my normal things, has had real, practical effects.

And I mean a complete reversal of a bad action, I mean actual money getting deposited in a bank account (ka-chink!), I mean people holding positions of authority having to admit a wrongdoing. Real change has happened. And not in the distant past or in another country: it happened around this time last year, in Pune, India. Just by sending emails to a limited group of people. If you want to dig into the details of this, contact me sometime, or see this video: (it's 44min long! and sorry but you'll have to see all of it to understand the matter)

What the complete picture entails, is that the online action can do a job of thawing the ice, heating the pot, of paving the way to on-the-ground action. It can act as a converger of hearts and minds. It can unite people behind a cause. And it DOES make a difference. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not in that particular case. But it does. If not in body then in mind. Because such is the irreversible nature of awareness: once you are aware of something, even if you don't do anything about it, you're very likely to stay aware and not get fooled in that department again. If you've ever done chemistry seriously, you'll know that there is no such thing as 0% or 100% concentration in the real world.

I'd like to invoke an old phrase once more :
Knowledge is power.
And add a line to it :
Awareness makes change possible.
If you're feeling curious, you can go to or and see examples on their website of petitions that made a difference, that brought about real change on the ground or that set the ball rolling. In scientific circles, it takes only one practically observed event that doesn't follow a theory, to disprove that theory. Let's use that here as well. While all online actions can't be guaranteed to bring real change, it is equally untrue to say that every online action is absolutely hopeless. That is a lie. There is always hope, and it is convergent instead of divergent, meaning at some tipping point, hope WILL convert to action.

Which means that even a failed campaign of today only sets the stage for a successful one tomorrow. In a sense, if you support a cause that you know is right, you can never, ever really fail : that is a practical impossibility.

The change that you want to see in the world does not come from any one ninja master stroke. There will never be one person or one superhero who does all the work for you. There may be one initiator, but it will spread. It's more like drops of water coming together, that form great rivers. The drops will come from many different places. Similarly, actions that bring about change can come from many different places: including your facebook activity.

So, in the case where you CAN and WANT to take part in a physical effort to bring change on-the-ground, DO IT. And in the case where you can't or don't want to do it for whatever reason, don't. Similarly, if you can and want to sign an online petition or share something on your social profile, or forward something to spread awareness about an issue that you care for, then instead of listening to all that "be realistic, yaar" advice,


and be the drop that converges into a mighty river.

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