The power of a citizen

Today I was reading a post about a 14 year old Yazidi girl in Iraq who escaped from her captors. I have this obsession about Googling and Wikiing(yes I just coined the word) in detail about any article that I read and find interesting. One Google search led to another and I remembered that I need to watch a movie which has been on my “To see” list of movies for a very long time- “Fahrenheit 9/11” by Michael Moore. Then suddenly I realized, that today itself is September 11, exactly 13 years after the events that are talked about in the movie.

There has been an urge in me to write a post about the powers of a citizen since a long time. Whenever I think about wars, their solution, politics and even world peace, I wonder- How can I, a single person, can solve the problems of a whole country? How can I, an Indian, influence the fate of a nation? My nation. Especially when the whole system is so big and the country is so big. That’s when I decided to go ahead and write this post.

Time and time again, we the citizens, are unsatisfied because of the president, the prime minister, the king, the monarch or whoever presides over the country. We blame them and their “system” for chaos, mismanagement, wars; for being corrupt and what not. We often forget it is WE who put them there. Without the support from the masses, who has ever been able to enjoy that much power? Is each one of us so powerless that we can not do anything while everyone else in the government uses or misuses the money we paid out of our pockets? No we are not!

Our right to vote
This is the most useful weapon all of us possess but seldom use. When an election is being run, how many of us remember even the names of all the nominated candidates? Reading about the nominees, their qualifications, their past history and how they have contributed to their respective electorates is something we all must do before stepping into the poll station.

The News
When some sensational or entertaining news (read “The Ice Bucket Challenge”) comes to the forefront, all of us take note and read it with excessive enthusiasm. The moment a piece of news or a published news article becomes boring, we press ‘X’ and get back on Facebook. News is more like entertainment for most people than active reading of daily news.

If we don’t read news and don’t stay in touch with the world and it’s politics, then do we really deserve a right to blame the government when something goes wrong? Isn’t it shocking how most of our casual conversations involve what our favorite actress wore to the latest awards ceremony instead of how much salary the president of our country took home this year? As they say, ignorance is really bliss!!

Knowing the law
A lot of us have no idea what rights we as citizens have. What does the law permit us to do? In which ways does the low protect and benefit us? we rarely try to the answers to these questions or even ask these questions. For example, as of today, if I buy the shares of an Indian company and own them for more than a year, I would have to give NO tax on the profit I earn after selling them. How many people know that? I wouldn’t expect many. But still, most people whine how the government levies enormous amounts of tax on whatever they earn. The responses from such people when asked “How is tax calculated on your salary?” can often be hilarious. All this in an age when Googling about the tax slabs is a matter of seconds.

There is a reason when a law, a legal system, is formed and followed. The laws are there to protect us citizens, not to protect the ones in power, unlike most activists claim. All we have to do is make the effort to be aware enough to know about such seldom talked laws. The moment we start being ignorant is the moment we give someone a chance to fool us.

We! The united WE!!
A lot of my friends often talk about how the government needs to be better, form better laws, do this, do that, blah blah blah. When I ask them, what have you done or plan to do to change the system, I get the expected answer- “Mere karne se kya ho jayega?” (What can I alone do!!). Multiply this answer with 1,236,344,631 and the product is a nation with 1.2 billion population where everyone is alone. This is the story of every country though. We laugh at a friend who tries to be to interested in politics and call him/her a geek instead of trying to take the same interest or at least listening to what that person is trying to explain. What results is a deadlock where everyone wants to do something and no one really does anything.

On the other hand, at times we see someone doing something, trying to change something and we notice that his efforts are being successful. Only then does our sense of unity kick in and only then do we join and follow in that person’s steps. What results is a revolution! Bringing a revolution is really easy. Taking the first step or not discouraging someone else’s first step is the difficult part.

Having a voice
When we don’t agree with something the government or a powerful person has done, it is not only our right to oppose the action, but also our responsibility to have an opinion about it. We can write, publish, blog(like me) our views, contact media houses and tell them our stories. Media can give us a voice which can bring a viral change. What stops us though is a fear. A fear of actually being heard, a fear of being wrong and a fear of being laughed at. Only if we could overcome this fear all of us can have more power to influence the so called “system”. It’s a basic rule really- To make someone listen, speak!

In the end, we the people, is what makes the system and we the people is what can break the system, if we are not satisfied by it. To have an ideal government, we need to be an ideal citizen first. This post is an attempt by me to inspire you to be such an ideal citizen.

-I dedicate this post to the people who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, the resulting “War on terror” and the aftermath of it.

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