Ethics for Everyone

Moral wisdom for the modern world

Malala and the Power of We

Blog Action Day 2012

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Anyone who follows the news is likely familiar with the story of Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who was shot last week in an attempted assassination by members of the Taliban for going to school and for her public activism in support of the education of girls. Her blog with the BBC details her experiences as a child seeking education under the threat of death.

This post is being done in concert with Blog Action Day 2012; the theme is "The Power of We." What does the story of Malala have to do with this theme? People in Pakistan have engaged in protests over this incident and she has been airlifted to England for further medical treatment. There is an online petition entitled "I am Malala" which will be presented to United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki moon and Pakistan's President. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have weighed in on her case and on the plight of the millions of children who are unable to go to school. Girls in Pakistan wear "I am Malala" t-shirts in support of her. Thousands of people have taken some sort of action in response to and in support of this courageous young woman.

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Last year, speaking to CNN, Malala said

"I have the right of education," she said. "I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."

The neverending stream of horrific news stories, including war, famine, natural disaster, and human rights violations can have a numbing effect. The power of we, to me, means that in a global community, we can band together with others to address these ills. Each of us cannot address every problem, but as a community we can address them all. If each of us joins with a few others in a concerted effort on one problem, in one area of the world, the power of we means that progress can be made to alleviate human suffering. We can't fix it all, but we can help fix one thing with a relatively small commitment of time, money, or effort. And that is significant.

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Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University.

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