The mighty may fall

The mighty may fall

Date: 28 July 2011

It seems like a different world now, but just four weeks ago I was sharing a coffee with a French friend of mine, Céline, and bemoaning Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the British press and, with that, public opinion. I simply couldn’t envisage this state of affairs doing anything but get worse and I depressed myself just talking about it. How times change!

We don’t yet know quite how this saga will turn out but it has so far highlighted some very important themes for us as activists. One of these is the importance of speaking up when we see wrong-doing. We will probably never know just how many people knew that the voicemails of murder victims, their families and many more were being listened to on a regular basis. What is certain is that those who knew and did nothing about it, even if they were not actively carrying out the hacking themselves, cannot claim to be innocent bystanders. Their silence allowed these practices to continue and they were therefore complicit in the system.

What does this mean for us? If we see wrong-doing in the world, an unjust system in which the poorest suffer, are we too complicit if we stand by and say nothing?

It may seem a bit unfair to make this comparison. After all, we can scream and shout all we like but what chance do we have of actually making a difference? ‘Little old me’ compared to huge great big them. At least that’s how it sometimes feels. It can be easy to get disheartened in this way and feel like all our efforts are futile.

However, a second theme that arises from the phone hacking scandal is that no one is too big to fall. This is something we have already witnessed this year as the ‘Arab spring’ spread and brought down seemingly indestructible regimes through pure people power. This ought to be incredibly inspiring, and it is. And yet it’s also so easily forgotten. But it’s something I for one will not be forgetting again. Next time someone asks me why I ‘waste my time’ on activism when ‘nothing will ever change’ or I start to feel powerless in the face of all that’s wrong with the world, I’ll think back to how I felt when talking to Céline and remember that sometimes, actually change can be lot closer than you think.