On the 5th of June, 1989 something spectacular happened.
You’ve probably heard that China and Tibet do not like each other much… well in 1989 people were protesting. These people were protesting the corruption and anti-democratic way that China was leading.
And these people were getting killed by the military – by the thousands.
And on this fateful day in 1989, as military tanks were moving towards Tienanmen Square, a random man stepped in front of them. He stood in front of the tanks, forcing them to stop moving. And then he climbed on top of the first tank, slammed on the hatchet and started talking to the soldiers inside.
When he climbed back down, two people from the crowd whisked him away. It is unknown if these people were part of the military and arrested him, or if they were bystanders who – realising that this man’s life could be in danger – whisked him away to safety.
And to this day, his identity remains a mystery, and he was dubbed the Tank Man.
When I was younger, I received a book entitled 101 World Heroes – and he was in it. And he fascinated me from the beginning. The spontaneity of his act, as well as his anonymity, made me realise what activism is truly about. It’s not about following the herd, or trying to pretend you’re making a difference. It’s doing something that you truly care about, so much so that it becomes a spontaneous act.
Much like Rosa Parks, when she refused to give up her seat. It wasn’t planned. She didn’t wake up that morning and say “you know what, I’m not standing up on that bus today”. She just refused in that moment.
Because true activism comes from the heart.