One person can move mountains

It is clear that the work of one person can have great implications on a vast number of people. Often we think of this in the lens of power relations- “Great Men” who conquered, built, and live on in myth and legend.

Those are rare exceptions. Most people who do great change labor away in relative obscurity. They’re motivated on a more personal and local level- not to change the world as a whole but make a small part of it a little bit better.

India gives us a good example, with individuals or small groups building roads and tunnels from scratch in order to better connect them to the rest of the world. Despite government neglect these cases have rural people with basic tools literally shoving mountains aside to make the lives in their community easier.

The road built by Dashrath Manjhi.

The most famous case is Dashrath Manjhi, who spent 22 years chiseling a path through a hill, over three hundred feet in length. Due to the long and difficult travel to the nearest hospital, his wife died enroute, and he began a constant effort to make sure such a thing never happened again. He finished in 1982.

Ramchandra Das
Ramchandra Das

He’s far from the only case; Ramchandra Das was inspired by Manjhi’s work and completed his own one-man tunneling effort in 2009. His work was prompted by an interaction with Manjhi himself:

I pleaded with Manjhi to cut the hill that isolated my village. He chastised me and told me to be a man and cut the mountain. I followed his order.” (source)

They are part of a series of unofficial civilian-built roads and tunnels.

This isn’t to say that the developing world should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and fix their problems themselves. Hell no. But it’s amazing to see what dedicated people can do, and how we can learn from their example. People like Manjhi and Das challenge us to examine our problems and figure out innovative ways to solve them ourselves.

Archimedes was right. Give someone a place to stand, and they can move the Earth.

You are not, and never will be entitled to sex

There’s been a tumblr post circulating among my Facebook friends to support the idea that there exists a “rape culture” in America, and it demands serious action. Rape in our culture is a point of contention between various groups- debates over whether rape jokes are socially acceptable, or if the term is used too casually have happened again and again in the past few years.

The statistics in the post are legitimate, and are collected with citations here. A series of surveys and academic articles, published between 1981 and 1994, found widespread acceptance of rape among middle school and college students. In a disturbing result, many young girls accepted rape as justified in some circumstances- sometimes at a rate equal to young boys.

This data is compelling, but dated. However, an exhaustive survey by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey has been published recently, thanks to significant support from government agencies. It is stark in its conclusions: if the rate of sexual abuse has gone down, it hasn’t gone down much. In the 1988 college survey, about one in four women reported rape or attempted rape. In the 2011 report, it was one in five.

I don’t mean to drown this post with statistics; rather, I want a strong grounding to stand on going forward. More below the fold.

Continue reading “You are not, and never will be entitled to sex”