How can Social Change be brought about, especially in a Totalitarian Society like the One Nafisi Describes? Totalitarian societies suppress the rights of the individuals of freedom of words or actions and the most common reaction of people under such circumstances is a silent retreat…
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In order to break the silence or discover possibilities to exercise their free will, individuals must strive to resist to such pressures on individual level. If only people realize what a deadly solution silence is, they would never choose to resort to it. It is a manifestation of the weakness and inability of individuals to stand for their basic human rights. In order to fight the system, Nafisi had to create a little world of her own with a like-minded group of students in order to evade the restrictions of the totalitarian regime they were living in. The classic literary works they studied together opened new vistas for their inner struggles to break the silence and to stand for their rights and this is how they survived in such suffocating circumstances with little efforts. “… like Lolita, we tried to escape and to create our own little pocket of freedom.” (Nafisi, 435) They developed a strong bond during their struggle to keep their spirits alive and to carve out a little space for themselves and also learnt how to handle unfavorable circumstances. This is what Gladwell says about the Power of Context: “… the Power of Context says that what really matters is little things.”(242) If people wait for radical social changes to take place, they must start by taking the first little steps themselves. Nafisi and Gladwell argue that environment plays an important role in shaping human behaviors. People tend to think and act differently under different circumstances and they even develop different perspectives of life in different situations. It was for this reason that reading Lolita in Tehran became an altogether different experience. “This then is the story of Lolita in Tehran, how Lolita gave a different color to Tehran and how Tehran helped redefine Nabakov’s novel, turning it into this Lolita, our Lolita.”( Nafisi, 420) Gladwell also emphasizes upon the strong impact of environment on human actions. Our behaviors undoubtedly reflect our familial and educational backgrounds, mentalities, and genetics- but most importantly they are shaped and governed by the environments we live in. We pick up cues from the environment and act or react accordingly. “The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a certain kind of person but from the feature of the environment.” (Gladwell, 238) In totalitarian regimes, it is incumbent upon individuals seeking social change to voice their concerns. The environmental factors might be discouraging and disheartening, but it is within human powers how they behave in particular situations. It is important to have will power, voice and the determination to express yourself through sensible and methodological actions. Social change can be brought about on the grassroots-level of totalitarian societies by instilling a general awareness about free will and the right to exercise it through words and actions. Rampant and radical movements can be easily undermined by such political systems by force; however, awareness about basic human rights seeps in the deepest layer of societies over the years. Such changes evolve slowly out of the dire need of the citizens to express their free will. In a totalitarian society like the one Nafisi describes, individuals are forced to redefine their behaviors particularly in public. People are forced to practice such customs in which they do not believe in; and they are expected to act and behave like the tools of a totalitarian system. If given an opportunity to
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