History in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United States is filled with example after example of the upper classes, the rich and wealthy, engaging in social reform of the poor and the lower classes. But those rich and wealthy, who thought they knew better, passed judgment on those so-called poor and lower classes, and judged them based on their own high society morals. Very little progressive social reform occurred under those circumstances, except for the limited viewpoints of those impressing their morals on others. Beyond my rant of the legislative and social morality of the present and past, it is indeed refreshing that there are other countries and individuals that are interested in actually helping rather than moralizing to a populace.
The founder of Childline, Jeroo Billimoria, actively engages in participatory action research (PAR) or action-based community development (ABCD) or a combination of the two to improve the lives of homeless children in India. This is something I have never seen done in the United States and certainly not in a project of this grand scale. Each time I see an example of humanity and progress such as this, it gives me ideas and hope for the future and how I can actively help people help themselves. Billimoria actively trains, teaches, and employs the children that she has saved and she treats them with humanity and respect. They have grown up and they help others. When I was younger, I dreamed and tried to create a self-propelled paddleboat. This is an example of a well-oiled paddleboat that helps itself by helping others who, in turn, stay to continue helping. This is what I want to do on some level in some way. The whole history of Childline is one where trial and error are valued in order to evolve and improve the assistance to the homeless children of India. Rather than give up when faced with what appeared to be failure, Billimoria learned from her mistakes and worked to improve the manner in which Childline responded and the manner in which it interacted with other agencies.
This is the heart and spirit of PAR and ABCD and why I am so actively interested in implementing both in some way within what may become ongoing research in propaganda. And there is something else I can take with me. Billimoria started Childline with little more than a resourceful idea that built a basic structure from talking to the street children, listening to their problems. Those children kept coming back and brought their colleagues. She also had the ability to talk to government officials, agencies, and national businesses to facilitate the infrastructure needed and then falling back on friends and family and the street children to pick up the slack from a government that either didn’t understand the importance, didn’t have the budget, or was too lame from the bureaucracy of their day to day. Billimoria is someone that can be looked up to as a role model to the rest of us that want to change the world in some small way and thus in a very big way.
The most powerful statement that Szekeres makes at the beginning of, “What Sort of Mother Are You?,” is her matter-of-fact conclusion that the so-called disabled are human beings with quantitative differences rather than qualitative differences. That is electric. It applies to the need for judgments of equality and fairness by the white political majority, and it applies to smaller communities. Szekeres treats the so-called disabled as members of humanity rather than objects. That is powerful. She acts locally to impact globally as the “trite” saying goes. It applies to all of us. If people are to enact change globally, if I am to enact change globally, I will and everyone will need to act locally first, and I will use any means at my disposal to spread that message globally using the propaganda that I preach positively as some have done in the past rather than to spread the stereotypical “evil” associated with the word propaganda and the manner in which it is generally used.
In comparison to the humanity that the individuals are treated with in Szekeres’ homes, the state “homes” of confinement, the cages that they remind me of, also remind me of the inhumanity that was documented in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. It’s sad that humanity is still treated this way, and it is disturbing that people can still consider this humane and consider themselves human and mirrors government that still considers it’s laws governing the so-called disabled as humane. The key element is the treatment of people (members of fellow humanity) as humans with needs and desires. Treating people as objects confines them for life and frustrates communications that results in pent up frustration of an unjustly caged human.
I am reminded of three quotations at the conclusion of this wonderfully challenging semester that sum up my enlightened (r)evolution so far: “Be sure you’re right; then go ahead.” (Davy Crockett), “There is do and there is do not; there is no try.” (Yoda, in Star Wars), and “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Katherine Wood translation). The essence of acting and doing for the improvement of society, to improve one, and to improve all lie in these words as much as anything I have read and learned in the last several months.
Bornstein, D. . (2007). How to Change the World. Chapter 7 Ten-Nine-Eight-Childline! Pp. 70-91. Oxford University Press.
Bornstein, D. (2007). How to Change the World. Chapter 9 “What sort of mother are you?” pp 101-119. Oxford University Press.