This past weekend I had a powerful personal experience. It is still troubling me. I was confronted with a situation that woke up memories and experiences from Apartheid South Africa. What I recall about prejudice and injustice in those days in southern Africa is that what seems like horribly unforgivable today, was business as usual then.
It reminded me of the work by Thomas Kuhn in his book “The Theory of Scientific Revolutions” – which I highly recommend. In this book, Kuhn explored dozens of widely accepted norms and beliefs from hundreds of years. All revealed that just about everything we believe in changes over time and what we believe in is based, in very large part, on our environment and other belief systems of our time.
In other words, there is a very high probability that we are a discovery or two from changing in what we believe in today. It is hard to believe that Apartheid ended in 1992 and that World War II ended a little over 60 years ago. In all cases, either someone at the right time and at the right place had to speak up and challenge the status quo (the king has no clothes) or irrefutable scientific evidence had to be uncovered.
This weekend I found out that an institution that I love so dearly has a by-law that is discriminatory. It was written over a hundred years ago, I am told, at a time that has virtually no semblance to both the audience and the services that the non-profit serves today. My options were to change the policy by working within the system and its deeply ingrained self-serving bureaucracy or to take firm stand. I chose the latter.
For years as a boy in Africa I witnessed prejudice and injustice and felt helpless. I remember thinking, “If I only were bigger or richer, I could change it.” Well, I am bigger and I have resources now. Doing nothing and letting this policy continue would be akin to supporting it, which is unconscionable to me. I have taken a firm stand to use the resources of the world today–Facebook, Twitter, and a huge network to begin a campaign to end this policy. I will rely solely on the goodwill and the conscience of the human spirit to raise awareness enough to put an end to this policy.
I feel empowered by my conscience to do so. What is going in your place of work or life that troubles your conscious? Is the issue based on a belief system whose time has passed? What are you prepared to change?