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Willing to Be the First

While a lot could be said about those who lead and those who follow, those who plan and those who act, there are two people without whom no important action, no change, could ever happen. Those two are the first one who speaks out about the issue and the first one who stands in his or her support. They are the people who are willing to be the first, no matter the cost.
Everything has to start somewhere and someone has to be there to kick it into motion. Unfortunately, extremely few people are willing to take that chance, to single themselves out and become a target for all those who oppose their idea. Even when they agree with a controversial idea, they prefer to sit back and wait for others to take the first steps, joining in only when they could lose themselves in the crowd. But there would be no crowd without those first ones, because sometimes it takes more courage to say one word or to raise your hand than it takes to actually fight.

Imagine a scenario. An important issue is being discussed and you could cut the tension with a knife. A lot of important people are seated in a hall, listening to what’s being said and some of them taking turns speaking. There don’t seem to be any truly good solutions for the problem being discussed, not unless you take the really outrageous ones into account at least. Some might be thinking about those outrageous solutions, but nobody wants to speak out about them, it’d be suicide… Or, at least, nobody until one person stands, walks up to the microphone, speaks about one of those outrageous solutions and asks for support. There is a moment of silence, while everyone is trying to figure out whether he or she is really saying what they appear to be saying, then there is a lot of muttering, possibly some shouts for silence, some other shouts which are threatening or at least insulting the speaker… Then, slowly, as the speaker continues to face them undaunted, scanning their faces, there is silence again.
Without that speaker, that idea would have never seen the light of day. Even if most of the people in that hall would have been thinking the same thing, nobody else seemed to have the courage to speak out. Or perhaps nobody else was thinking that same thing until then, but some analyzed the idea on the spot and decided that it was a rather good one, which makes the speaker even more valuable. So the speaker was extremely valuable, there’s no doubt about that. There are now a number of people who agree with the speaker, but they still dare not speak out in support, fearing the consequences. Some of them might even be muttering or shouting against the speaker, afraid that they’ll become the next targets for the others’ outrage if they do not. So, as valuable as the speaker was, he or she would have to stand down, defeated, at least for the time being, if nobody would be willing to be the second “first”.
But what’s this? Somebody is shuffling in their chair. The speaker notices it and tries to make eye contact, doing their best to encourage that person. But that person would not look up, not yet anyway. The encouragement they need at that moment can only come from within, because that’s where the battle rages. They agree with the proposed solution, but they’re afraid of what will happen if they speak out, they’re uncertain about the outcome of the whole thing. Still, in the end, that little voice which says that they should do the right thing, despite their fears and misgivings, becomes stronger and so does their resolve. They look up to meet the speaker’s eyes and then, ever so slowly, they stand up. A deafening silence follows the very next moment. You could hear a pin drop. Then, one by one, a few others stand up. Then, several more follow suit…
The first leader is extremely important, but the first follower is equally so. It’s true that just these two people could hardly accomplish anything without the help of all the others who will join the movement after them, but it’s even more certain that nothing important would ever happen without both of them. They both take tremendous risks, as they won’t be able to hide even if an entire “school of fish” would form around them afterwards. Their supporters but also, and perhaps more importantly, their enemies will always remember that they started it all, that they were the first ones. This is why I said that sometimes it takes more courage to say one word or raise your hand than to actually fight. When you fight, you can be part of an “army”, you can get lost in the crowd and you could even try to escape the vengeance of your opponents by saying that you were just following orders. These two will never be able to do that…

You can apply the above situation to any number of past, current and future issues. You can replace speaking with any other form of communication. You can replace the hall with a city, a country or the whole world. You can replace the important people with average people or, quite the opposite, with very specific individuals. The general idea doesn’t change, it hasn’t changed through the ages… We need those two “firsts”, we need far more of them than we have… We have always needed far more of them than we ever had…
So… What about you? What would make you be willing to be the first, even if the risks were significant? What do you truly care about? Is there anything? If not, why not? How does realizing that make you feel?

Courage is even less common than usually thought. Especially when the death you risk is not that of your body… That’s very unfortunate for all of us, if we’re to have any chance of ever making it out of this mess we got ourselves in…


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