The adorable second-grader in my life, my nephew, had asked me the dreaded question: “Can we go see the Lego movie, please, please, please?”
I was immediately overcome with a feeling of despair. Flashes of animated movies with trite storylines and ridiculous characters (like the minions—I did not see Despicable Me, but they never seemed to say more than a syllable throughout the entire trailer) danced through my head. But when I looked back down, I was staring at a lovable, wide-eyed kid who just wanted to see the animated version of his favorite toy. So obviously, I said yes.
When I walked into the movie theater, I was surrounded by what seemed to be babysitters and moms. I took my place comfortably among them and immediately began texting my friends: “How do you even make a movie about Lego characters? Why is this happening to me?”
My hyperbolic texts were simply a way for me to pass the initial scenes of the movie before I drooped my eyes into a 90-minute nap. But before I could fall asleep, a song began blaring.
“Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome…”
The poppy, redundant song had my attention, and, suddenly, I was following a small, yellow, Lego man through his day in an admittedly impressive Lego World. He went about his life with a smile on his face. And, when things went awry, and he found himself fighting Lord Business with the other “master builders,” he told himself that anything was possible as long as they combined their pieces, worked together and believed.
Wow. Well if only life were that simple, right? If I just believed that working together and combining our efforts would solve the world’s problems, then things would start to change tomorrow, right?
Although I initially masked these thoughts as realistic instead of giving them the cynical label they deserved, at least they weren’t the reactions streaming through my second-grader’s head.
“See? If Lord Business was just nice and knew the Golden Rule, he never would have had his office blowed up!” Or, my personal favorite: “All of the Legos had to put their pieces together to defeat the bad guy!”
Even though it’s easy for me to laugh at his words and write them off as cute quippings from a second-grader, his simplicity came as a healthy counter to my current perspective.
I’ve spent a lot of my time at Duke talking with my peers and learning more about the “big picture” aspect of social issues. I’m talking about gender inequalities, rape culture, the continuous existence of racism and prejudice or widespread poverty, to name a few. But after participating in things like the WHO Speaks campaign or Common Ground, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t? It’s not a single sexist advertisement you’re fighting, it’s the patriarchy. It’s not a single prejudiced individual you’re fighting, it’s a historically racist society. It’s not just a single economic policy you’re fighting, it’s an entire system. Unlike in Lego World, it just can’t be that simple. We can’t fight the bad guy and expect to solve the problem.
As I’ve grown older, it’s become easier and easier to get overwhelmed by the idea that, no matter what small actions or choices I make, there’s still a larger, more impossible problem at hand. Even though I choose not to use the word “slut” or “gay” or “retarded” as synonyms for stupid, refusing to do so will not change the opinions of those around me. Participating in cultural shows like Awaaz, to spread awareness about the Hindu festival Diwali, will not educate the kids that don’t come. Volunteering at food banks or at the nursing home in my community will not make a difference to those suffering in other parts of the country.
But after spending a little time with a friend who does see things a little more simply than I do, I was reminded that our own actions and choices do count. The first steps to solving the bigger issues at hand are to remember the things we were taught when we were younger. Work together. Don’t give up. Keep believing.
Change never comes that easily, but it’s easy to forget that our actions can add up. So, even if my choices are only small building blocks toward change, in Lego World it really just comes down to a matter of putting all of our blocks together.
Nandita Singh is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Tuesday.