By Ben Simanowitz
This week I watched the inspirational viral video of Elin Ersson, a lone Swedish student, who prevented the deportation of a man to Afghanistan. The bravery she showed by calmly refusing to sit down and let a crowded plane take off was remarkable. Her action not only demonstrated her initiative, courage and a sense of moral justice, but it also made me realise that direct action needn’t require a mass movement: that anyone – including myself - could have done what she did.
Elin expressed it well when she said: “I hope that people start questioning how their country treats refugees.” But it was her actions that spoke far louder than her words.
While many of us are aware of the appalling treatment of refugees by our governments, few of us have the motivation or bravery to act. Elin’s video shows that you don’t have to be a super hero to save a life. All of us are capable of taking action in the face of injustice.
With the increasing rise of authoritarian governments and upsurge of divisive politics, we have a responsibility to try and change the ways the world is currently being run if we are to curb human rights violations worldwide. The only way that this will be achieved is if people become more global in their perspectives and more vocal in their opposition to abuses. After all, when have governments and leaders ever given up anything unless pressured to do so?
As the first true digital natives, my generation – the post-Millennials – have grown up with unlimited access to information. Some complain we are easily distracted: that our use of Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and countless other Apps, means that we are not fully engaged with the world around us. Whilst there may be some truth in this, the digital age has also offered us the possibility of being more informed than any generation before us, and more aware of injustices around the world.
Nevertheless, the effectiveness and power of social media inevitably depends on those who are using it. In America, students from Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took charge of the gun control discussion after a shooting in their school. As Cameron Kasky, one of the students who started the #NeverAgain campaign, said: “the adults know that we are cleaning up their mess.”
Post-Millenials are clearly capable of stepping forward and collaboratively changing the world. With the help of social media we are sharing opinions, mobilizing and together we may yet help to transform the current appalling global state of human rights.
Elin Ersson’s actions are inspiring. Through them more people will hopefully be driven to become more actively engaged in issues rather than watching from the sidelines. Indeed, I would like to think Elin’s actions have given me more confidence to speak out and take action against injustice around me.
Ben Simanowitz is a 17-year-old secondary student from London.