You are not helpless
You have the power to do good and influence the world.

Helpless. That is how I feel watching the hollowing cheeks of a child. The desperation of a father as he rushes into the sea. The limping footsteps of the elderly. The visceral shaking of a young girl. I know this helplessness. As a Lebanese and Palestinian person, I have watched both places be crippled and destroyed for the benefit of countries that like to play proxy wars in the Middle East. Our land and oil more valuable than human life, history, or culture. 

When the port of Beirut exploded in 2020 due to haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate, I wrote about the helplessness I felt watching yet another tragedy befall an already struggling country that was in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and food shortages. Today, I sit with that same helplessness watching Gaza be razed to the ground by Israel. With an intentionally manufactured famine now steadily taking the lives of yet more innocent Palestinians, and the last stretch of Gaza, Rafah, being invaded, how can you not feel helpless after six months of genocide? 

The answer to that lies in the truth. You are not helpless. You have never been helpless. There is a reason why the protesters chant: “the people united can never be defeated!” Every single one of us has choices, options at our disposal. The only question is: do you have the commitment and courage to do the hard work of doing good? 

If you have borne witness to this genocide, and the genocides happening in Sudan and Congo, and you wish to do something, then allow me to suggest a few actions you can take. 

Boycott. Yes, it works. Money always talks louder than the individual in our capitalistic society. So put your money where your mouth is. Take the few extra minutes to check if a company or product is funding and supporting genocide and apartheid. For Palestine specifically, join the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement

Sign petitions and contact your representatives. It might not seem like this is impactful right away, especially with the lack of a response from most representatives. However, each call and email is yet another tally to add to a growing mountain of tallies, and that matters. It signals to our politicians and governments that we are paying attention and demanding policy change. In Canada, we saw 286,719 people sign a petition to force the government to discuss calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza back in the fall. That online petition garnered the most signatures of any parliamentary e-petition since it started in 2015. That says something significant. And now, we are seeing Canada freeze arms exports to Israel. Would that have happened without public pressure? No. So keep annoying the hell out of your politicians. It is the least they deserve for being complicit in genocide.  

Learn. Learn about the culture and food and history of these peoples. Learn their stories and perspectives and struggles. Learn how these atrocities came to pass, the history of colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy that are deeply rooted in each instance of apartheid and genocide. Read and listen to the voices of Palestinians, Sudanese, Congolese, and other Indigenous peoples. In learning about these people, their land, their history, and their current struggle for liberty, you awaken to the fundamental nature of our interconnectedness. And in doing so, you can help teach others to wake up to the reality of our current world. 

Donate. You do not have to give more than you can spare, but each of us has the capacity to donate something. Whether that be money, or time, or effort, or attention. Give to those who are going through the unimaginable. For Gaza, donations of e-sims or food are crucial right now. Find a way to donate, however much you can. 

Protest. The continued show of solidarity through protesting is important both symbolically and practically. Our governments and companies need to see and hear us demanding change in the real world, not just behind our screens. Do not become cynical because our protests have not worked as quickly as we would have liked. It is the slow and continuous push for liberation that unshackles us. So, continue to demonstrate for the changes you want to happen. 

Finally, continue to pay attention. Pay attention now before a permanent ceasefire has been called. Pay attention after. Pay attention to what happens to all the displaced Gazans. Pay attention to the atrocities in the West Bank. Pay attention to the actions of Israel. Pay attention to the aftermath of genocide. Pay attention to Sudan. Pay attention to the military-industrial complex that upholds the war and genocide in Sudan. Pay attention to the Congo. Pay attention to the horrific exploitation of a land and people for our luxury. Pay attention to how you use technology that was mined by an enslaved child. 

Most importantly, do not lose hope and despair. Helplessness lures us into inaction. We cannot afford to do nothing, not now, not ever. 

Opinion Editor (Volume 50); Ear to the Ground Columnist (Volume 48) — Aya is a recent UTM graduate, having double majored in Political Science and Sociology. She's worked at The Medium for four years, starting in Volume 46 as a Staff Writer, then becoming Opinion Editor for Volume 47, serving as a Columnist for Volume 48, and now reprising her role as Opinion Editor for Volume 50. She loves the opinion section for its opportunity to spotlight student voices and allow for a range of tones, from serious to satirical to silly. Aya's passionate about engaging in robust, thoughtful, and meaningful discussions through writing and hopes that the UTM student body will join her in doing so!