Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama, Osama, Gandhi and Gates

On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, my thoughts turned to his oft repeated mantra - that about change.

What is change and the ability to bring it about?

As I see it the ability to bring about change is the ability to shape the direction of society's endeavours with the aim of significantly altering a facet of our existence.

If we accept that premise, then there are four routes to change, exemplified by four public figures:
  1. Gandhi - Inspiration : Gandhi brought change to India and the world by inspiring millions through his ideas. he had the right ideas, the strength of will to stand his ground and was able to acquire the right platform at the right time in history to make this happen. This is probably the most difficult path to bring about change as few of us can claim to have the ability to not just inspire but to move millions to action through mere ideas.
  2. Obama - Power : Obama has used the system to achieve political power, thus providing him the mandate and tools to bring about change. This path, though easier than Gandhi's still takes a lot of doing - witness the 2 year long presidential campaign ; and that was just to get to office, but business of bringing about change is yet to begin.
  3. Osama - Force : Osama has used blind, brutal force and has brougth about change in the world (albeit of a negative kind). This method - plain brute force - can almost never bring about durable and desirable change. It can however bring about escalating and durable negative change (witness the unending conflict in West Asia)
  4. Gates - Money : Microsoft changed the computer industry. Even more so, Gates is using his enormous fortune (all moral squabbling about Microsoft's business practices aside) to bring about change in the lives of millions through his charitable foundation. This is easy - once you're a (b/m)illionaire that is. [This is my personal favourite :) ]
Simply by the virtue of you having access to the web and reading this blog, you (yes both of you) are better off than a majority of the world. You (and me too) are the privileged ones. We are in a position to bring about change if we choose. Ofcourse these figures are bringing about massive change change on a global scale, we can aim more humbly. The path you follow is an individual decision, but the choice to bring about change - even a tiny positive change - in the lives of others less fortunate will give you unbelievable satisfaction.

(blah blah blah.. so what’s my plan? I'm no saint. Like everyone out there I want to take care of myself and my loved ones. I want to be financially free by 40 - i.e. I shouldn't have to work for money anymore. I want to then focus on the important things in life - like doing my bit to ensure access to quality education to less privileged or to assist in some way to help address climate change or make available cheap, clean energy. 

Yeah its a little audacious.. *snort* done by 40... but hey you've got one life.. and I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't try)

Anyway ... here's to a depression-free 2009 :)