When he had reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred women crowding round the stalls of a street market, with faces as tragic as though they had been the doomed passengers on a sinking ship. But at this moment the general despair broke down into a multitude of individual quarrels. It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stall-keeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve.
There was a fresh outburst of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’s hands. For a moment they were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?
-George Orwell, 1984. Part I, Chapter 7

Orwell nailed it. He got the setting, he got the characters, he got the actions. He was only off by a few years. I’m not concerned with all of the ideas he portrayed in 1984, that’s a big animal to try and tackle all at once, but I have noticed that this scene imagined in the ’40s is not a far cry off from where we have gotten ourselves today.

We just saw history made as Black Friday 2013 was extended retroactively to include Thursday. Thanksgiving Day. Plenty of people have been disgusted by this, but others were not. Newspapers have run headlines that read, “Americans decide with wallet that Thursday is the new Black Friday”. I didn’t go Black Friday shopping, so I didn’t witness any of the carnage firsthand, but I did stumble across this beautiful portrayal of the American Spirit:

Watch the whole thing if you want, but you don’t even have to watch a full minute to get the idea. Also, you can just jump around to any point in the video to get what I’m talking about. There are people tearing metal gates apart at 3:00, masses at 2:15, and at 1:59 we get to see the modern version of what Winston witnessed above.

“faces as tragic as though they had been the doomed passengers on a sinking ship”
“general despair broke down into a multitude of individual quarrels”
“Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’s hands.”

It’s almost creepy how accurately Orwell wrote.

What I do want to focus on though, is how impressive people, joined together in one common cause, can be.
Orwell writes: “Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats!”
It doesn’t take that many people to create a powerful force to be reckoned with. Yes, a few hundred people can cause a stampede that will kill others so that they can have a new waffle maker for 5 dollars. This is terrible, yes, but we do need to recognize the amazing power that people have when they come together for a common goal, even if it is a saucepan or a waffle maker.

So here’s the big question that winston asks himself: “Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?”
What if the same number of people got together to stampede for a cause worth stampeding for?
What if a few thousand people stormed the State Education offices demanding reform, while screaming and rioting?
What if a few hundred people could make enough noise to drown out bigots who protest military funerals?
What if a dozen bikers came together to protect children from sexual abuse?
What if a handful of colonists decided that enough was enough and that they wouldn’t take anymore taxation without representation?
What happens when immigrant and refugee parents clamor for equal school representation and opportunity for their children who don’t speak English yet?
What would happen if thousands marched into Alabama to protest racism, discrimination, and segregation?
What if three hundred thousand men, women, and children marched through Washington D.C. and supported one idea of freedom and equality?
What happens when 6-9 million Iranians take to the streets to oppose a leader and demand he step down?
What about the 33 million. Think about that. 33 million Egyptians who protested Morsi and took him out of power?

There’s power in people. But it starts with one. 

Let’s shout about things that matter.

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