CHANGING THE WORLD: IS IT POSSIBLE? A DISCUSSION WITH PROFESSOR GREGORY SWEDBERG

by ELIZABETH MORALES 

No one can say that they have not dreamed about changing the world. In all societies through history there are always injustices, therefore the desire to make them go away is always present. Countless examples can be cited of people that have tried and succeeded in making society better such as Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln. However, did their efforts really change the world? To answer this question I sat down with Professor Gregory Swedberg who specializes in Latin American History here in Manhattanville College.  

Wanting to change the world is a start, but is not enough. Most people have felt this, but how to do something about it not easy. A way of changing the world is a revolution and perhaps the one that promises the fastest and most radical change. For example, the Cuban Revolution had a very strong impact on this racially segregated society. After the revolution, the beaches were desegregated and a national conversation about race was opened.  “By 1970, Cuba had the highest literacy rates in Latin America, lowest infant mortality rates and those programs were very successful. But did racism go away in Cuba? It still exists,” said Professor Swedberg.

Perhaps a better example of the impact of a revolution is the US. I admire the perseverance and the patience of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, especially Martin Luther King. The way they achieved the change they wanted to see was through nonviolence. Their efforts proved fruitful, and the United States became a more integrated society. However, racism still exists today in the US. “The data indicates that the majority of the poor are African American and Latino. And also the majority of the populations of American prisons are African American and Latino as well. Some have called this the new form of legalized slavery,”

Even if societies don’t change radically right away, it just means that it is the duty of every generation to do something about the society they live in. Every generation has the task of making things better. I think that what we can do is learn from previous generations. I think nonviolence is a really good way to achieve change in a society. Nonviolence still works in today’s society. For example, Occupy Wall Street changed things. “People know what the 1% means. It raised people conscientiousness, it still resonated very deeply. Even if the police used tactics to break it up it still had an impact,” said Professor Swedberg.

Looking back on previous generations, I think in general our generation lacks the motivation to work together and do something to change the world we live in. Even if there are notorious exceptions to the rule, young people that are doing everything they can to make the world a better place, in my opinion they are not the majority. I know many friends and professors of mine that all want to change the world but have not really found a significant group of people like them and a way to do this. If history teaches us something is that when people work together they can get results. However, completely changing society is not something that will happen with one generation’s revolution. I think all generations have the responsibility to make the world a better place and after several generations have done their part, the world will get closer and closer to a better society. Since it is our responsibility and no one else’s, I pose this question: what are you doing to change the world?