You'll be relieved to know that this blog is not about Covid-19, (but it is about courage).
If you’ve ever seen the brilliant TED talk by Derek Sivers – How to Start a Movement you might identify with the difficulty and awkwardness of conveying a new concept or conviction.
He begins by saying: ‘A leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed…’ with the connotation that it may end there. Some people are summoned to swim upstream, and it helps if they know they may always swim alone. However, if other people catch on, a massive shift takes place. Derek’s 3-minute talk illustrates how quickly the ‘lone nut’ morphs to become the leader of a movement when others grasp their vision. All the mighty cultural shifts in our world derive from people who identified with the vision of the lone nut and joined them… but it’s a tough gig.
Greta Thunberg is the supreme 21st century example. Many people are concerned about the climate, but in August 2018 a 9th grader became the lone nut when, following heat waves and wildfires during Sweden’s hottest summer ever, she skipped school every Friday to strike, demanding the Swedish parliament address the crisis. By the end of the year she had more than 20,000 followers around the world, and the following year multiple millions had joined her, marching in almost every nation.
It always takes courage to make a stand, especially when, initially, you stand alone, yet that is the only way change can be wrought.
It always takes courage to make a stand, especially when, initially, you stand alone, yet that is the only way change can be wrought. Here are a few lone nuts who irrevocably changed their societies.
Rosa Parks became a lone nut in December 1955, when she refused to give up her seat in the bus after a long hard day. Her courage precipitated the Montgomery Bus Boycott, catapulting Martin Luther King Jr. into prominence as America’s best-known civil rights leader.
In 1966, Vincent Lingiari was the courageous nut who led 200 Indigenous Australian stockmen on a peaceful protest to secure fair pay, working conditions and land rights just four years after Aboriginals had the right to vote.
In 1702 Mary Wollstoncroft was vilified as the lone nut who wrote: A Vindication of the Rights of Women, a book we still consult for insight on gender equality.
Harriet Tubman not only escaped slavery but became a lone nut rescuer of slaves.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, a lone nut who used her writing to bring change. President Lincoln called her the ‘little woman who wrote the book that started this great war’.
The unknown hero in that iconic picture in Tiananmen Square in 1989, a lone nut standing in defiance of the mighty tanks of the Chinese Army.
Malala Yousafzai, the little nut who, at 11 years old, began writing a blog for the BBC about gender equality and the right of girls to be educated in Pakistan.
Gandhi’s legendary leadership of a 250-mile march in defiance of the British rule in India. His willingness to be the lone nut was instrumental in halting colonial rule.
Loujain al-Hathloul, the brave nut who, in 2019, drove her car to protest the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. She is still imprisoned for treason, despite the fact that women are now allowed to drive.
Courageous people throughout the history of the world have made insane decisions to be a lone nut. We know many of their names, although not the names of those who, one by one, caught the vision and joined the movement. One brave soul after another unites until the streets and parks and public sites fill with people making the choice to transform the lone nut into a leader.
When that happens, despite the violence and brutality that is often aroused, critical mass is reached, exposing social injustices along with the tyrannical and cowardly regimes that enable them. Laws are changed, oppression is called to account for its ignorance and brutality; entitlement is overturned.
It doesn’t happen all at once, true. But when the lone nut becomes a leader for righteousness, buttressed by those who also see beyond the status quo, change is inevitable. France’s teenage champion Jeanne d’Arc, whose courage facilitated the crowning of Charles VII, the legendary Nelson Mandela whose legacy is the destruction of apartheid, the mighty Boudicca who led her people in a war against the superior fighting power of the Roman army – all began as lone nuts.
Nations always suffer when their rulers become complacent or corrupt, idolising the gods of their own peace and prosperity to the detriment of the welfare of their people and the planet.
Lone nut leaders are scorned and vilified as revolutionaries and dissidents, which, of course, they are. In the Bible, Ahab encounters Elijah at the end of a three-year drought and calls him ‘troubler of Israel’ 1 Kings 18:17. Elijah retorts that it is not he who troubles the nation but Ahab. Nations always suffer when their rulers become complacent or corrupt, idolising the gods of their own peace and prosperity to the detriment of the welfare of their people and the planet.
As society changes, which it does constantly, it is necessary for fresh insights to arise. Age and entrenchment cause organisations to lose momentum, institutions to atrophy, businesses and corporations lose their innovative edge, suddenly realising they’ve been outstripped by new competitors. God regularly raises reformers across every sphere of society because change cannot occur without non-conformists who are brave enough to forsake the herd mentality in order to address the problems that occur when the status quo has mutated to be more valuable than people’s wellbeing.
In the generations which comprise 21st century, the nut isn’t alone for long. We’ve had more public marches, protests and demonstrations in the last 5 years than ever. Protests against governments, national leaders and unjust laws are now common as a new generation refuses to meekly acquiesce to edicts from on high. Students protested for months in Hong Kong, and the Extinction Rebellion hollers at governments everywhere about the climate crisis. New Zealand’s lone nut leader, Jacinda Arden, whose primary political focus is her people’s wellbeing rather than the economy, has been joined by PM of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, both looking at similar government priorities.
Lone nuts aren’t always right. They don’t always have good motives. That’s life. Discernment is crucial. You don’t have to believe every lone nut peddling a new opinion.
However, it’s essential that we who are our brother’s/sister’s keepers, part of the global village, are willing to scrutinise beyond the way things have ‘always been’, and outside our longing for comfort and ease, to see our responsibility for the best interests of our world.
People who are willing to learn and grow, embracing change even when it’s uncomfortable, can be endowed with the insight and courage to identify the lone nuts God is using to transform society for the good.
After that, it’s imperative that we be brave enough to stand up and join them.
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