Having another set of eyes to review a piece of work offers an opportunity to pick up on grammatical errors, factual mistakes and whether or not the piece even makes sense.
As a reviewer you are given the right to question, change and veto whole paragraphs with the permission of the writer. Not only are you thanked for your time and valuable contribution, you are praised for the useful ability to dot an ‘i’ and cross a ‘t’ as well as right a wrong.
Without oversight and review errors can occur, they are often repeated and become so ingrained that they are difficult to weed out.
In every generation there are people who are born into the world who possess a keen eye for human error, injustice and oppression. They wield an ability to hold the mirror up to society and to call out when something is not right. Their names are synonymous with social justice and impact: Walter Cronkite, Bernie Sanders, Susan B Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi to name just a few.
It is these people that devote their lives to advocacy and activism in the pursuit of positive change throughout the world. It is these people who hold a vision that transcends class, economic status, race and religion to connect strangers, neighbors, friends and family to a deeper understanding of what it is we should aspire to and what is possible.
These people are what Dr Martin Luther King Jr referred to as Disciplined Non-Conformists when he said “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined non-conformists who are dedicated to peace, justice and brotherhood.”
This notion of the Disciplined Non-Conformist requires a commitment to a noble cause that is greater than the individual. It often entails forgoing comfort for the risk of criticism, ease for insult, to hold strong to a set of values and principles.
The world needs Disciplined Non-Conformists.
We’ve all seen them. We look to them and say things like “I am glad someone had the guts to say that” or “you said exactly what we are feeling”; even “if only more people would think like you.” We need them because they aren’t afraid to raise their hand in a room of ‘yes-men’ and say “no, not this time”.
Non-conforming is easy: you can be a brat, a punk, they commit heresy, break systems, shout down and dismiss. But to stand for something, to build systems, debate an idea, inspire and persist in the face of adversity, that takes discipline. It requires the right mix of ego and courage to believe you can succeed where others have failed, or where others wish to stand in your way.
We need Disciplined Non-Conformists. We need someone willing to stand up and say to the powers that be, that they cannot dismantle independent media, they cannot detain human beings for seeking a better future, you cannot speak of progress when it is in the disguise of systemically crippling culture, and you cannot pander to big business because you work for me; the citizen.
I believe that Disciplined Non-Conformists from across history share three elements. Elements that we are not necessarily born with, but can be learnt. In fact, everyone has the ability to become a Disciplined Non-Conformist by developing these elements in their own lives.
- Element one: History
- Element two: Values
- Element three: Courage
Understanding history is also understanding that we are the sum-total of what has come before us, positive and negative. Events do not happen in isolation, there is a lead-up and an aftermath which often creates a new environment or context for another event. This happens at an individual, community-wide and and global level. A recent example is the election of US President Donald Trump. Over the past decade a social and political context has been building that led to the election of one of the most under-qualified, xenophobic and sexist western leaders the world has ever experienced. It happened slowly, it happened while people were complacent, and it happened in plain sight.
Viewing history as an interconnected and living timeline is also humbling. It says two key things; (1) before my existence on this earth decision were made, opportunities taken and hard work done, and (2) I have the ability to influence the world around me through the decisions I make, the opportunities I pursue and by how hard I work.
History is an opportunity and the responsibility to think beyond our current situation.
Identifying personal values is critical in understanding what you care about, how you make decisions and most importantly, what you stand for. Personal values are often formed through personal experiences; the consequences of our actions and decisions, and the behaviors modelled around us all inform our values. Each and every one of us has our own vastly unique library of experiences; accordingly, it is not only difficult but also unrealistic to dictate a set of values to someone else.
Values are shaped and connected to our individual and collective history; injustice, persecution, heartbreak, love, sorrow, adventure and so many more. Values inform the beliefs you hold about yourself and your world, your passions, and what you stand for.
It is within the internal dialogue of ‘what I stand for’ and ‘what I don’t stand for’ where the Disciplined Non-Conformist is born.
The origin of the word courage is ‘to be whole-hearted’. Often mistaken as a word that is interchangeable with bravery, courage requires more than simply taking on a challenge. It beckons commitment. It calls for longevity. It signals a fierce determination.
If identifying personal values is the birth place of a Disciplined Non-Conformist, then courage is the coming of age. It is realising your place in history, finding your voice on an issue and taking that first step into the unknown, regardless of what lies ahead.
Unlike History and Values, Courage cannot be taught. It is a decision that can only be made by one person, you.
In a world that seems to value short-termism and popularity over character, we desperately need Disciplined Non-Conformists. We need you.