Social change, and how it is like making sand.
This week, alongside several other people, I am about to embark and what will probably turn into a lengthy and complex complaint regarding my treatment within the NHS.
This is sadly the third time I have had to undertake such a journey. The previous two related to both my experience as an inpatient and also being misdiagnosed. The latest, slightly different, is about my experience as a volunteer.
This kind of thing makes me very sad.
Despite all the policy and rhetoric, the NHS is really crap at integrating people who have a lived experience into the fabric of their organisation. So often it is just tokenistic and a tickbox exercise. in this case however, given that resolving this matter is a new special interest for me, I have the patience and motivation to see it through. I was really passionate about the work I was doing and had some amazing colleagues that I worked alongside. I owe it to them, myself and anyone else who is recruited after me to do my best to make sure things improve.
Speaking about it to friends this week though who were quite cynical and predicted ‘nothing would happen’ made me reflect upon what I do though.
The answer I have reached in response is that social change, change for marginalised individuals and communities, does happen but it is like the sea slowly grinding the shore into sand. We know it happens because we understand the concept of coastal erosion. We can’t actually witness solid rock slowly transforming to tiny grains of dirt though, and this is what social change is like.
Observed across years and decades, the impact of things like the Independent Living Fund, Civil Rights Movement and the Mad Pride cannot be denied. People may not have perfect lives, but we are not locking those with physical impairments up in institutions and mad narrative is taking a place at the table in academia and mental health practice.
So rather than live a hopeless life and take no action, I would rather consider myself a tiny wave in a vast ocean of people who are all chipping away at a cliff of injustice and discrimination. To all intents nothing may not be achieved with this one person, but people will think more and differently next time.
I may only create one tiny grain of sand from this rock, but hope this legacy will join thousands others so other people in the future can live a life more free of pain and suffering than mine has been.
Live with hope. It’s what makes life worth living.