Almost everyday I hear people discussing change. Not change of clothes but change of ideas, of politics, of society. I hear this and become enlivened. The sleepy, aching parts of me wake-up with pins and needles at these idle conversations in the dining hall line up. I want to join in the discourse with the slightly awakened visionaries of the student body if just to check on commitment. Do these visionaries really care about the change they are discussing over trays of chicken fingers, or are these the complaints of a disenfranchised generation?
I have to believe they do, or I become the bane of all activists: a cynic. Activists who don’t stop to enjoy life and the waters of their toil become cynics. Activists who still live in the culture of instant gratification become cynics. Activists who lose that drive, that beautiful wound hope that makes us activist, these are the cynics. The optimists “shown” by the jaded former activists that change is impossible, these are the dragons at the gate of change, but I am just breathing fire. I have to believe that bathroom stall soliloquies may bring change when read from soapboxes, because the revolution starts here, or wherever you are. We can’t wait for change to find us, or for the revolution to come knocking on our doors. But perhaps, if we start knocking, we may find others who will join us, who may carry things on once we are too tired or gone.
In high school, those hollow hallowed halls that seem so far from here, some friends and I threw our 17 year-old passion into an Amnesty International group. It consisted of mainly our friends and as the years passed, we questioned its ability for continuation despite our best efforts. Years here at Laurier passed and I often wondered whether that first vessel for change survived the seas of blue-collar Canada. This past summer, I was at my favourite hometown coffee shop when I notice a poster for an Amnesty concert put on by my local youth AI group. It was a night I was free, so I attended this 6th annual concert. There were more students there then I had seen in all my time with that group. Like those dining hall discussions, this relatively small group of young activists gave me that moment of hope. They unknowingly fought back the dragon for me, showed me that others would carry on my work if I cared enough, if we all wanted it enough. I had seen none of these young revolutionists in my time at High School Anywhere, but they were there to continue what we began.
Yet, change can’t depend solely on the work of these students, and as I leave in May I know I’ll wonder what of the work I’ve participated in here, in Waterloo will continue, and what will fail without my fire.
In Death to Smoochie, Edward Norton’s character Sheldon Mope has a motto which I think is an appropriate response to the cynics in our midst who think change is an antiquated idea. “You can’t change the world, but you can make a dent.” The tools we need are acquired here, so why not start working away at those dents now? Change starts wherever you are; you just have to be it.