The Struggle between Social Change and Personal Survival

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  ~Victor Frankl

Watching the news is depressing.  There are so many things going on in the world, a never-ending list of atrocities attached to a never-ending list of people in power promising change, who are unable to deliver.  Dealing with a social conscience, and trying to inspire social change can be hard when you’re trying to survive in your own world of rent, groceries and homework help, so how do you deal with it?

Throughout college (back in the day) demonstrations calling to stop the war were my thing.  Stop the war on Iraq, stop the war in Palestine, “NO” was the word of the day among the young and active.  Now, it seems like regardless of the demonstrations and the energy expended on grass roots rallies, things have not gotten better, they have only gotten worse.

Echoes of my college professor ring in my ear: “people can demonstrate all they want, this is America.  However, the people who are calling the shots are inside the buildings you stand outside of.”  I couldn’t understand where he was coming from, what was he talking about?  Grassroots activism was the root of the people’s expression and social change; of course our demonstrations were making a difference.

Two days after my 21st birthday, the U.S. invaded Iraq and my idea of citizen power, rather skewed but still in tact, crumbled.

Thinking back to the days of my political activism, the most profound change I contributed was front and center in educational settings.  Speaking with people who had never met a Muslim before and didn’t know much about American-Muslims.  This was were I felt I had the most impact.  Community centers, high schools, and churches, were the basis for my contribution to change.  

After a 6 year stint abroad, I’m back in the states.  I’ve come back to a place where Fox news rules, now more than ever.  So, where does political activism and social change fit into my new world of social media, freelance writing and SEO strategies?  Does it make me a sell-out in the scheme of social power when I think about earning a living?  No.  It doesn’t.   

 I’ve accepted that although I can not change the world.  I can, however, change my own world.  I can change how I interact with the world around me, how I interact with others and how I strive to move forward in my own life.  This is the social power I have to create change.

 How about you?  How do you think about social change and your own life?  What impact do you have on the world?  

Photo via Flickr Jayel Aheram


  1. This is such an important message, Ahlam. Never feel like a sell-out for earning money from your writing. To me, the wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can earn a living doing something you love AND influence the world in some small way every time you publish a piece of writing. It’s a very holistic approach to life! Best of luck on your journey. Glad to have found your blog.

  2. You’re so right Karen. It’s about being comfortable with yourself, your position in the world and the control over what you can change. It’s about perception, as you clearly mentioned on your own blog. It’s a matter of staying true with the words you do put out there….thanks for stopping by and I look forward to receiving your newsletter 🙂

  3. I stumbled upon your blog feeling sad because of some posts which I just read by those influenced by Rupert Murdoch’s Republican machine, Fox News. I read posts written by people who were not even alive in the ’60’s, but who have been taught to hate those of us who demonstrated for Civil Rights and against the war in Vietnam. What is happening in the USA today is a reaction to the results of the power of the people as expressed in the ’60’s. There are times when I think I cannot be appalled any more and then another outrageous fiction is accepted as fact. I often hope my grandchildren migrate to another country to live their lives in peace…
    and now I read your blog entry above. Thank you. I needed to read your words. I was wanting to move to Egypt (still do) where freedom is not taken lightly or for granted – where simple civility and respect is still alive in the culture. I needed to read: “I can change how I interact with the world around me, how I interact with others and how I strive to move forward in my own life. This is the social power I have to create change.” and the Frankl quote.

    Thank you. Be well. Peace.

  4. Tally,

    You’re right, it’s often disheartening watching the “new”, or hearing hurtful things people have to say but it’s really a matter of changing the things we have power over. It’s much easier to give up, move away (or wish we could!) as opposed to influencing change in our own perimeter. Thank you for your encouraging words, just what I needed today 🙂

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