Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those watching them without doing anything.” Unfortunately, this quote is truer now than ever before, and partially due to our daily routines: by being absorbed in going to work, college, occupying ourselves with our own daily problems, and social media “activism,” we have lost our ability to be human, to feel real compassion for one another, and most importantly to take real action against injustice. We have become apathetic towards others and our surrounding environment.
How many acts of injustice occur on a daily basis against someone based on their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and how many of us actually do something about it? By “doing,” I mean actually standing up for the oppressed and not just focusing on social media “activism”? It is very easy to login on Twitter, or Facebook and rant about something, but let’s be quite honest: do we really think that will change anything? No, it will not; real change only happens when we get our hands dirty and step away from social media “activism” which serves primarily for the purpose of giving us a “feel” good moment about ourselves. I am not saying that social media is not a good tool for activism, it is actually quite the contrary; however, it is just a tool, not the entire job.
When a man handed a rope tied in a noose to two Hijabi women while singing “oh Canada” in a rail station in Edmonton, Canada, Janelle Venne—a citizen of the town—did not just let the incident go by, or rely merely on social media “activism” and did not want to be one of these good people who watched someone doing something awful and did not do anything about it. Ms. Velle initially took it upon herself to perform an act of kindness which ended up inspiring others to help as well.
Ms. Venne had the idea of buying flowers and passing them to Hijabi women in the train station as a gesture of acceptance and a “you are welcome here” message. Initially she thought it would be something small, as she could only afford a very small amount of flowers, however as she talked to more people about her idea, more people wanted to get involved with it and help which resulted to far more flowers from initially thought.
On the day of the event, Ms. Venne and other volunteers started handing out the flowers to the women in hijab passing by the station. The first woman who received a flower from Ms. Velle came to tears from this kind gesture, while another hijabi woman who received a flower was on her way to class ended up coming back after class to the station to thank the volunteers for what they were doing.
Ms. Venne went on to say that, of course, there were a few people who did not approve of this gesture or Muslims in general, but it was just a small number. She went on to add that many non-Muslim passersby did ask her what was she doing and once they found out, they asked how they could help.
It did not take Ms. Venne and her volunteers a lot to come up with this idea. It was not a fancy event or a huge protest; it was rather a small act of kindness which brought the biggest smiles on some women’s faces who undoubtedly face more discrimination and bigotry due to their hijab which makes them a visible target. Ms. Velle refused to remain silent in the presence of injustice, and put herself out there so she can show not everyone is the same and not everyone hates.
If anything, this incident should serve as lesson to all us, it should encourage us to act upon injustice with even a small gesture, such as the one Ms. Velle organized. The world needs action, not talk alone.
This article is written by Nikolaos Barbaressos.