I don’t understand activists. I admire their courage and occasionally attend a protest, but I’ve never connected with why they exist. I did not see why we need a reminder of everything wrong with the world. We know! That’s why bingeing on Netflix feels like a better use of time. If I can’t fix it, why care?
Ironically, my path has led me to work on content for the social impact sector and I came face to face with the people I don’t understand. To face the fact that I have no idea what they do and why it’s important. Therefore, when I was asked to come up with a concept for communicating inequality, I had a major brain freeze. I love the challenge of diving in to solve real human problems, but the depth of it can be overwhelming.
As I prepared for a Q&A breakfast session with a team from Oxfam and Fight Inequality Alliance, I didn’t know what to expect. Will I learn anything or will my brain hurt? I had dug around the internet and despite that, I had no idea why they exist.
Turns out, equality is about how we get to live our daily lives. I quickly learnt what equality is not. It’s not the quest for a utopia where we’re all at the same income level. It’s not a hatred of the rich, although it often seems like it. It’s the awareness of the access you have or don’t have, that makes your life easier or harder.
Have you ever felt an overwhelming feeling of helplessness? Especially when you listen to the news? Do you ever wonder if things will ever get better? Who will come to save us? I know I have! I went into the meeting expecting to ask cynical questions about why I should care. What can I, a regular citizen, do to make a difference? Then I realised something startling.
Inequality has numbed us. It normalised patterns where a minority have access to endless opportunity while the rest make do with scraps. Diving into inequality leads to the realisation that no one is coming to save you. In a good way. I have the power. You have the power. The agency to act, create and ask for change. In simple tangible ways.
Exploring inequality is about self-preservation. About protecting your future. You’ll never enjoy your wealth if your neighbours are suffering and stagnant. When we don’t intentionally drive development, we enable a vicious cycle where people are born into disadvantage.
That said, inequality conversations need a makeover. Urgently! It needs to flip and become about developing personal agency. Taking back personal power by understanding how things work. Realising the power of the people to demand for development and change. Most problems can be solved when you understand who to talk to and how to organise. Simple but critical concepts I never realised I needed.
Inequality is a deeply layered subject intertwined with history and power. Learning to take personal responsibility creates the muscle to gradually deal with the larger issues. People need a message that empowers. A message that tells them what they can do to help things change. A message of hope. Hope that lies in being intentional.
Note to self: Question everything you hold to be normal. Question the origin of your truth. Question your motives. Question the roles you get to play at home, at work or in the community. Then somewhere in there, you’ll know when to use your voice to change things.
Bob Marley was onto something. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. But first, become aware of the slavery. Only when our eyes are open can we follow the light.