“Everyone thinks of changing the world, no one things of changing himself.”
The only thing that is constant in life is change .Que sera sera – whatever will be will be. Change is the law of life, irrespective of its kind-be it for better or for worse. Mankind is losing its human touch day by day. Insensitivity is on the rise. All of us are choosing to be Nero’s guests. We talk about creating a change but in the process forget about having to change ourselves which is the most essential step to bring about transcendence. Nero’s guest, the short documentary by P.Sainath was an eye opener for most of us. It set me thinking about two things namely
A) What am I doing that doesn’t make me a member of the club of people who live in oblivion, insensitive to the suffering of others?
B) Erin Gruwell, a truly amazing woman.
Back In high school I read this book thrice and every single time I read it, I cried my heart out. I watched a film made on an adaptation from the book and I realised the beauty of the reality on a better footing. Reality is harsh but you can make a difference if you choose to. The idea of the documentary Nero’s guests runs parallel to this book which I can read time and again,
“THE FREEDOM WRITERS DIARY: HOW A TEACHER AND 150 TEENS USED WRITING TO CHANGE THEMSELVES AND THE WORLD AROUND THEM.”
The first thing that one would say after reading the book or watching the movie would be “WOW!”. Stereotyping does exist in the United States as well. in long beach California there is a school called Woodrow Wilson High, as a fresh teacher, a student not so long ago herself ,Erin Gruwell found herself facing a class of “at risk, unteachable” students. All these kids come from a very traumatic and treacherous background. They were all victims of gang banging, racism and communal wars. For all of them, reality had been anything but pleasant.
One day she intercepts a note that was being passed around class behind her back; it was an ugly racist caricature of one of her students. A patient teacher until that moment, she finally snaps.
She angrily declares that it was such gestures that led to the holocaust. On receiving uncomprehending looks from the students, she decides to teach them everything about the holocaust and the kids eventually realise that their status of affairs ran parallel to the time during the holocaust. This is when they undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. She leads them to start trying a journal about everything that has happened to them in the past and how they would like to resurrect their present and what they would like to look forward to in their future. The kids start liking her and take this seriously.
She tells them that she’d read it only if they permit her to. To her surprise all of them let them read their journals. She decides to compile them and publish a book. She calls them “the freedom writers” in homage to the freedom fighters, the civil rights activists. With funds raised by a “Read-a-thon for Tolerance,” they arranged for Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell’s students were “the real heroes.”
The class became the first batch to graduate from the school. Most of them went ahead to attend college and study further.
The freedom writers is an incredible inspirational story that makes people want to believe in a bright sun that will rise after the darkest night. Nothing is impossible; life’s jigsaw puzzle will fall in place only if you assemble the pieces right.
Erin Gruwell firmly quips,
“Don't let the actions of a few determine the way you feel about an entire group. Remember, not all German's were Nazis.
Evil prevails when good people do nothing.
It sounds strange, somewhat on the line between irony and absurdity, to think that people would rather label and judge something as significant as each other but completely bypass a peanut. ... World peace is only a dream because people won't allow themselves and others around them to simply be peanuts. We won't allow the color of a man's heart to be the color of his skin, the premise of his beliefs, and his self-worth. We won't allow him to be a peanut; therefore we won't allow ourselves to come to live in harmony”
Below are a few scenes from the movie, the freedom writers diary. All of them are self-explanatory and carry a lot of irony.
This is when she tells them about the holocaust.
Erin tells this to a student who tries to back out from studying and asks her to fail him.
She adds, “It would be easy to become a victim of our circumstances and continue feeling sad, scared or angry; or instead, we could choose to deal with injustice humanely and break the chains of negative thoughts and energies, and not let ourselves sink into it.”
Lastly, the major lesson that I learnt from the freedom writers and what I imbibe in my own life,
You just learn from the freedom writers that every person has a story to say, every individual has somewhere he/she is coming from, so the next time you meet someone unconventional, give them time and space to warm up. Accept that they have a story to say. In due course of time, they’ll become resilient.
Until then, you can ask them subtly,
As for change beginning with me, I volunteer at Centre for Social Activities, I teach underprivileged children. I believe that’s where I’ve started to make a sound difference. J
-Rupali H Iyengar