I was recently reading a string of comments on social media about an article on climate change by the great Sir David Attenborough– most commentators were in support of the need for urgent action; however, one person stated that it was pointless to try to do anything as an individual and that only “the powers that be” could have any hope of making an impact. Personally, I felt this was rather negative and it led me to ponder about the power of the collective – people power – and how we can (and have) come together during the course of human history to achieve great things.
Take the Pyramids for example – built long before any JCBs were on the scene – the pyramids were a wonder of ancient engineering, which remained a mystery for us to ponder – just how did they manage to build them? Whilst I’m no historian, I can see that it had to be the efforts of a great many people working together to achieve such a feat.
The same holds true throughout history on great construction projects, such as cathedrals, temples, monuments, statues, bridges, railways, skyscrapers, etc – these were only possible with the labour, efforts (and at times) sacrifices of large numbers of people.
As well as great construction projects, people power has also been able to remove controversial structures of suppression and prejudice – consider the scenes of the demolition of the Berlin wall and think how many people were there on that day; or more recently, the tearing down of statues of historical figures that are considered to represent slavery and racial abuse – whatever your views here, you have to acknowledge it was a collective action that came together on this.
People working as a team can achieve so much – think of a crew who sail a ship – all have expertise that amalgamates to ensure the ship can achieve safe passage. The same is true for crews running trains or working on aeroplanes – they all work as an effective unit to ensure the smooth and safe running of these modes of transport.
On a more artistic note, think of the many wonderful choirs – how their voices blend in melodious harmonies to achieve a breadth and depth of sound to adorn our listening pleasure. There are dance and formation groups, ballets, acrobatic troops, carnivals and parades, who’s well-rehearsed formations amaze and delight a multitude of audiences.
Turning to sports fans – think of all the different sports that are played by teams – football, rugby, cricket, baseball, basketball, netball, hockey, volleyball to name but a few (sorry if I missed out your favourite!) – these all require a collection of individuals training and playing together as a team, with all their various strengths and proficiencies. Furthermore, all the work behind the scenes supporting these players – and not forgetting the legions of fans who also form a collective of encouragement and enthusiasm – again the power of the many.
Let’s consider more altruistic efforts – you only need to think of all the numerous worthy charities that rely on donations from the many to fund their great works. How about the marathon fund raisers we see annually producing millions of pounds for great causes in a short space of time thanks to so many people coming together (maybe many of them only able to make modest donations) but the sheer scale of their efforts produces a fantastic total.
As a woman, I always think of the suffragettes and their brave efforts to achieve the right to vote – again by way of the many joining to support and continue to uphold the call for a worthy cause.
In the same vein, there have been so many rallies and demonstrations throughout history for a vast variety of issues – some good, others not so – but all demonstrating what happens when enough people feel strongly enough about a cause to join together and show their feelings as one group.
Of course, I can’t omit what must be the largest human collaboration of modern times – the internet. Yes, there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad on there – a reflection of ourselves maybe? But you have to admit that it is a great amalgamation of humanity. It can achieve so much – being a source of useful, vital or even life saving, information, championing great causes, highlighting important issues, providing an array of promotions, funding the needy, supporting the lonely, facilitating beneficial communication and sharing. Most recently, we have ever more turned to it to help us to work remotely, shop online and maintain contact with our loved ones.
I’m certain there must be thousands, if not millions, of examples of what human collaboration can achieve – these were just a few that occurred to me. I’d like to add one more – a favourite example that I heard about only the other day:
A group of primary school children were concerned (and had been for a few years) about the red noses for the charity Red Nose Day being made of plastic – with all the issues about single use plastics and their negative impact on the environment – they wanted to find an alternative. They were very young and a very small group, in a more remote part of the UK – but they didn’t give up. They kept on championing their cause in a modest but determined way, until they finally achieved their goal – and next year we will have Red Noses made from a by-product of sugar cane (believe it or not) and not from plastic. I was blown away by their maturity, unswerving resolve and absolute determination to achieve their aim – and they did – a massive well done to them all.
So, we can look to those children to really show us all what can be achieved if you join together and never give up – a little thought for us all when we negatively convince ourselves that we can’t achieve anything as one person – we absolutely can if all those ‘one persons’ join together as one.
As Helen Keller said – “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much”.