By Caitlin Johnstone
Name a quote by Mahatma Gandhi.
Odds are the first thing that jumps into your mind is the famous, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s a good quote. It’s pithy enough to fit on a bumper sticker, and it resonates deeply with something inside us all which tells us that it points to something true and valuable.
But, like so many other pithy bumper sticker quotes we see floating around today, these words were never spoken by the person they’re attributed to. What Gandhi actually said was this:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
Oof. That’s a bit more confrontational than the popularized version, isn’t it? Change my own nature? I thought we were talking about something light and easy, like not wearing fur or buying fair trade coffee beans.
That’s how “Be the change you wish to see in the world” tends to get interpreted today. It’s a line that is so commonly regurgitated in our society that it’s now cliché and almost meaningless, something you see on cheap keychains at the mall and scan over without really reading, but assume you understand because you’ve seen it so many times before. If pressed to really think about it, most people will say it means something like make the changes in the world that you want to see. If you don’t like factory farming, become a vegan. If you don’t like poverty, volunteer at…