The Butterfly Effect Actions for change

Posted: 07/09/2011 in Love, Philosophy
Tags: , , , ,

In this post, i have presented the butterfly effect. Here I will show some practical examples.

“What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand Messianic gestures but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft – almost invisible  – acts of compassion  – everyday acts of compassion.” (Chris Abani)

First story – The Fruits of Their Labour

On July 19th, 1984, 21 year old Mary Manning, a cashier working at the Henry Street branch of Dunnes Stores in Dublin, refused to handle two Outspan grapefruit.  Mary Manning did this on the orders of her union as a protest against the system of apartheid in operation in South Africa at that time.  Manning was suspended for her actions and ten of her colleagues went on strike to protest against her treatment.

This refusal to handle South African produce by Manning and her colleagues was not well received by their employers and resulted in a strike that lasted almost three years – a very brave action in a time of great unemployment.

Eventually though, the Dunnes Stores workers prevailed and the Irish government agreed to ban the importing of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was overthrown.

Today in Johannesburg, a street is named after Mary Manning and she and her colleagues have been personally commended by Nelson Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki.

As Margaret Mead, the well-known anthropologist said –

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Second Story – Hero in ‘Train’ing?



Third story – Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon

From December 1940 to September 1944, the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignonand its surrounding area became a safe haven for almost 5,000 Jews. The day after the Vichy Government in France, made an agreement with the Nazis to hand over all Jewish refugeesAndre Trocme, Pastor of the Protestant church set the tone for this constructive resistance in his sermon by telling his parishioners that they should use the ‘weapons of the spirit’ to resist.

“Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty. Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate.”

Throughout the entire Nazi occupation, not one Chambonnais ever handed over a Jewish refugee to the authorities. Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman, who was a child refugee in Le Chambon, described it thus –

Nobody asked who was Jewish and who was not. Nobody asked where you were from. Nobody asked who your father was or if you could pay. They just accepted each of us, taking us in with warmth, sheltering children, often without their parents — children who cried in the night from nightmares. 

The people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon couldn’t stop World War II or the Nazi occupation of France. They couldn’t stop the atrocities or persecutions – they had no control over any of those things. They did, however, have control over themselves and their own actions.

Their individual actions contributed to a cohesive, unified whole which had a massive effect, but even so, each individual in Le Chambon had to choose and act according to his or her own view of what constituted ‘doing the right thing’ independent of chances of success or outcomes.

These Butterfly Effect actions saved 5,000 innocent people – most of them children.

The Proverb goes: For want of a nail the shoe was lost;  For want of a shoe the horse was lost; For want of a horse the rider was lost; For want of a rider the battle was lost; For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Maybe we could change it to:

Because of a nail the shoe was saved

Because of the shoe the horse was saved

Because of the horse the rider was saved

Because of the rider the battle was saved

Because of the battle the kingdom was saved

And all because of a horseshoe nail…


Many Thanks to

  1. […] Posted: 01/12/2011 in Love, Philosophy Tags: Butterfly effect, Change, SomaliAid, Video 0 In a previous post, I have presented some practical examples about the butterfly effect actions for change. Here is […]

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