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On being a citizen and the importance of voting

Sometimes, I get frustrated with the world, and with how important issues are neglected and unimportant ones get all the attention.

I repeatedly get frustrated with how we treat each other, as if we can only lend our ears and hands if it’s for our advantage, or our availability, or our interest.

It’s easy to be disillusioned. It’s easy to be cynical. We more often than not believe that the world has never been in such a dark place.

One thing I’ve heard from everyone that I’ve talked to this semester is how disgusted, annoyed and disappointed they are with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Most put them on equal standards of loathing, and that extends with the political class and the media.

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The exact same sentiment occurs in Brazil – where I’m from – and I bet it reverberates everywhere else in the world.

But the point of this article is not to place more spotlights on things we already know are bad, but rather to point out one very obvious, but frequently neglected mentality, that can be summed up in this quote by Justice Louis Brandeis: “The most important office in a democracy is that of citizen.”

In our society, we have a tendency to place our hopes and dreams into someone else’s shoulders. We have a tendency to believe that power is outside ourselves.

Trump, Clinton and whoever is elected in the future can only do so much. In a way, it isn’t right to blame politicians for everything bad that happens in our countries. Sometimes, they are honestly doing the best they can, but change doesn’t come easily. Especially if deep down we don’t really want change in the first place.

True change can’t be forged or forced upon. True change comes from within. If a drug addict doesn’t change on the inside, he or she will remain an addict. If a society is not ready for a new idea, not even the strictest law in favor of that new idea can sustain itself.

Same-sex marriage was only approved in this country because the people, overwhelmingly, were ready for the idea. If any politician had tried to impose this idea through law for previous generations, they would probably fail.

That’s why I’m a firm believer that change is like an avalanche. When people change, the laws change. When people change, the politics change. When people change their shopping or consuming habits, the market changes.

Slowly but surely, countries and companies all around the world become more responsible and more sustainable. This isn’t illusion or a fool’s hope, it’s the natural way of things.

So, if you’re not satisfied with your politicians, be more responsible when choosing. If you’re not satisfied with the news you’re receiving, choose your sources more wisely.

Do research. Be civically engaged, debate and listen to those you don’t agree with. Different ideas and perspectives are fertilizers for creativity and progress.

And most importantly, stop blaming only the politicians, and only the media, and only the corporations. They are a reflection of us, of what we truly are as a society. They are simply offering what we’re asking of them. If you want them to change, you have to change yourself first.

Let’s take a hard and thorough look into ourselves, let’s identify what we can do to improve, because change comes from the inside out.

Let’s take the office of citizens, and we’ll finally see true change taking place.

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