Be the change you wish to see in the world

Elegant phrase, right? Well, I’d love to take credit, but that goes to the great Mahatma Gandhi who is often credited with coining the phrase.

Credited; he never actually said it. Or wrote it. That truncated version came from people that make bumper stickers and collectable mugs and posters with gauzy images of unicorns on dewy meadows with vague inspirational text spewed in glitter paint across the bottom of the frame in some wretched font … probably “papyrus.”

The closest phrase Gandhi actually said that the Cliffs Notes Philosophers could have “distilled” into that well-worn quip, was: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

People that endure years of beatings and rigorous self-denial aren’t typically known for being pithy.

Gandhi’s actual words are much more nuanced and complex, and as such indicative of a sophisticated understanding of the individual’s relationship to the group. Additionally, they would look terrible as a poorly photoshopped Minions meme on Facebook, so the real words go out the door.

If you’re in the mood to feel like you’re doing something to change the world, but don’t want to get bogged down in complexity and practicality and reality, then you’ll need to find a place with like-minded folk where you can come together to put forth a concerted effort to reshape the world around you with your own actions, but without becoming so involved it cuts into your Netflix time.

Feelings of accomplishment? Group-think? Prioritizing a rewatch-binge of “Parks and Recreation” over actual accomplishment? This sounds like a job for the internet!

And when you want to see change on the internet, its as simple as typing “change” into your browser.

Ok, its a little more complex than that. You’re going to need to add the “.org” suffix; otherwise your machine will probably just default to a “.com” address and you’ll be wondering how you’re going to get the world’s attention with “seamless shapeware” and discount bras.

Change.org is the world’s leading website for anyone looking to add their names to petitions ranging in scope from “please free my daughter from false imprisonment in Kuwait” to “bring back the McRib.”

FYI: The woman got her daughter out of the Kuwaiti prison she was held in on some truly trumped-up charges. The McRib remains at large.

So, a mixed bag. Change.org’s reputation as the one-stop shop for “effecting change” makes it beholden to all sorts of nonsense petitions. If you really want to see the power of collecting internet signatures, you have to look at their “most popular” list.

The most popular petition of all time on change.org, with 2,696,998 supporters is: “Shut Down the Yulin Dog Meat Festival!”

Oh, right, other countries are on the internet too.

Yes the Yulin dog meat festival is exactly what it sounds like. Its a festival held annually in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, in which revelers eat dog meat.

Right now most of you are probably picturing your beloved dog being chased down by hungry festival attendees intent on eating them and your blood is starting to boil at the notion a human could commit such atrocities.

Calm down.

Since the whole “which animals you can eat without guilt” thing is a cultural construct, the petition refrains from using any pictures of glassy-eyed puppies or Sarah Mclachlan tunes and instead focuses on the poor health of the dogs and the subsequent diseases their meat would carry.

Sounds reasonable, in fact it sounds more reasonable than thinking the People’s Republic of China could be swayed by the opinion of nearly 3 million people on the internet. Does change.org even make it through the Great Firewall?

Change.org has helped shine a light on some worthy causes and produced results for many who would have no other platform with which to gain national attention. Ranging from providing healthcare for 9/11 first responders to getting a sexual assault survivors Bill of Rights into federal law to passing landmark disability rights legislation change.org petitions can help make the world a better place … if given enough time.

All those victories took time, a lot more time and effort than just clicking “sign petition.” And each of those petitions took time to collect all their clicks; worthy causes always have an uphill battle.

How about the more recent petitions? Any worthy causes just starting up their own hill?

This week’s most popular change.org petition, with 245,111 supporters, is: “U.S. House of Representatives: Make Melania Trump stay in the White House or pay for the expenses herself.”

Look, I don’t like that the First Lady doesn’t actually live in the White House any more than the next guy, but with all the high-powered gibberish coming out of the Trump administration on a daily basis, this seems like a lesser cause.

So should you only sign a petition if its been around for a few weeks? Should we institute a 72-hour cooling-off period before adding our name to a list? How, exactly, am I supposed to make a difference in an indifferent world?

Take a page from Gandhi’s notebook. Ok, not actual Gandhi, but Bumper Sticker Gandhi; be the change you wish to see in the world … just like I did.

How, you may ask, did I single-handedly change the world for the better? With a little luck, a lot of gumption, an empty stomach, and about four minutes of work online.

All three of my regular readers can attest to my difficulties in finding late night dining options, and my particular loathing for McDonald’s and their patently wrong Google review claiming a 24-hour drive-thru. (read: Machina ex McDonald’s, Oct. 16, 2016)

So a few days ago, while foraging for food in the wee hours of the night, I again came across the false “24-hour” listing for McDonald’s … and then I did something about it!

I used the “feedback” function on the Google review, entered in their ACTUAL hours of operation, and sent the changes off with the hope that someone, somewhere, would be reading.

And they were! I got an email from Google a few days later saying they had looked at my “feedback” and had made the appropriate changes to their review!

I became the change I wished to see in the world; I made the world a better place with more accurate drive-thru availability records for a small town in Iowa.

You’re welcome, Earth.

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Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.