The truth of the massacre in Tiananmen Square was revealed to the world through seemingly small but courageous acts
Through the night of June 3-4, 1989, the Chinese government ordered a crackdown on protests which had been going on over several weeks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, demanding political liberalization along with social and economic reforms. Tanks and heavily armed troops advanced towards Tiananmen Square and opened fire on the demonstrators, a majority of which were students.
Those who tried to block the troops were crushed. The massacre that ensued became one of history’s most important depiction of a government’s hegemonic control over its citizens. But did you know that the picture from the massacre that caused a worldwide stir by revealing the truth of the event, also known as The Tank Man, was carried away from the scene in a man’s pants for the world to see?
The picture was taken by German photographer Jeff Widener for the Associated Press (AP). Widener, however, was having trouble getting the film to the AP as he was under heavy surveillance by the Chinese government who did not want the information to get out. Such being the case, Widener sought assistance from an American exchange student, Kirk Martsen.
Martsen hid Widener’s photo film in his pants and cycled his way to the American embassy in Beijing to avoid getting caught. The pictures made it to the AP via the American embassy and were subsequently published. The Tank Man photo went on to become one of the most important pictures of the 20th century.
Around the globe, our realities as we know them are constantly changing. There’s ongoing war, global warming is at a record high, information is accessible to all but tailored according to the needs of a select few, and global economy is in a state of decline. It is understandable that one might feel inconsequential in the larger scale of events. Our attempt through this article is to encourage you that no act taken towards a change is small or inconsequential. The example stated above is just one of hundreds of such events which have changed the history of the world forever. Governments have toppled and empires have fallen at the behest of a chain of events which were triggered by a series of small individual incidents directed over time toward a common goal.
Our biggest strength lies in the fact that we are students, and we are in the middle of all the change that is happening around the world. We have the gift of vision, the strength of knowledge, and the ammunition of action. Our actions today will become our future tomorrow, and pave way for the ones who come after us. Actions big or small might not yield immediate results, but will certainly make a difference in the bigger picture. Just like Martsen transporting that tiny roll of film, remember that no act is too slight, and no step is too small.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor, and to wait.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow