I used to take the path of least resistance in society. I rarely disagree, because I would not change their beliefs and just cause conflicts. In delicate situations, I would almost never speak up and help someone in public.
Let me be concrete. Last week, a drunk / drugged man, who did not wear a mask, was continously coughing on the metro. He did not even use the crook of his arm against the germ spreading. The man sitting opposite just shook his head and sighed in disbelief, but did not do anything. I was sitting next to the coughing guy, just shaking my head with the indignant opposite doing nothing. This guy was not just risking my health but also that of others. I later thought how I could have changed something about it. The most tactful way and probably the most effective with someone drugged who doesn’t speak my language well would have been to kindly offer a mask. I didn’t have a spare one this day, but now I have for cases like these. Another day on the metro, I actually observed how relieved a young lady without mask was after being offered one.
In other cases, like people smoking or listening to loud music it’s more tolerable, it’s just disturbing but not harmful. The risk of getting myself into trouble is not always worth the small benefit. But even there I want to show more civil courage, especially with young kids.
I am still puzzled how to have an impact and not just sound ridiculous in many situations like kids asking me to buy cigarettes.
It’s about being political. I used to think that politics is just about government decisions that are largely disconnected from our individual lives. But now I believe that being political means standing up for matters whose impact is bigger than just myself.
Speak up and ask questions
A kurdic barber told me the other day how after asking questions he got some of his muslim clients to stop their religious practice. Not by preaching, but by asking questions. My girl told me how she changed her parents view on vegan diet from completely rejecting it as unhealthy and cult towards eating lots of vegan food. Something similar happened with another friend from a conservative family.
I have lots of such political situations as well, but in the past I remained silent because I thought I could not change them. Now, my goal isn’t to change anymore. Changing someone’s view is outside my control. My dad might never want to eat this vegan stuff, but I can make him understand why people do it and get rid of his repugnance. I just want speak up and express how I think. Not to preach, but to ask questions, to offer a new perspective. That is the best I can do, this is who I want to be.