December 21, 2011

One Path To Social Change











Shocking, but if you believe various sources, true.  I know, I am some bleeding-heart liberal because a) I took the Walmart picture from Moveon.org and b) I seem to be siding with the 99% and not the .01% who employ them (both figurative numbers not backed by mathematical certainty).  I’ll take your label then, because the compassion I feel may not have one otherwise.

Despite this, however, I have no political agenda here.  I don’t want you to vote for any one political party because of the fact just presented.  In fact, I don’t want you to vote at all because of this information.   Voting is, to me, often the lazy person’s way of feeling like some responsibility has been met, as if you have whispered in the ear of a dictator and now are somehow absolved in the atrocity going on around you.  You can’t, after all, feed a hungry person only by asking someone if there is food available.

I’m also not suggesting that we riot, occupy, strike, or any other form of civil disobedience.  Rather, I suggest that we each sit down with ourselves and figure out what works best for us as individuals.  Does it mean boycotting employers who don’t pay a liveable wage to their employees?  Does that mean occupying as a form of protest?  Does it mean writing and petitioning our often-inept political leaders for action?  Is it simply voting for someone who seems ready to act on behalf of a better society?

Anyway, this picture inspired me to this article as a means to a much different end.

Finding a Vision

You decide.  What does social change mean to you?  What are you willing to do to see yourvision of the world become

Real Change Anyone?

real?  What is the best path for you?  Does the process of seeing this vision become real need involve a political process at all?

I believe that a lot of us, including myself, are reactive to social issues.  A major disaster strikes and we react, often like a flash in the pan (very hot but very short) in helping.  We read something about Walmart  and we are ready to pounce; that is until we need a new TV.  For me, this is because I truly did not have an understanding of what a) my vision of the world was; b) what I was willing to do to see my vision become real; c) a knowledge of others who shared my ideals; and d) a true understanding of the power I had in effecting change.  This was, and is, a very personal and individual process regardless of how many may share in the answer.

I do suggest that this process be completed not in the “heat of battle” but rather during times of quiet introspection.  I’d also suggest that the answer become a mantra of sorts; a plan of action deployed when times require such action.

Be an Ideological Bigamist

I once was discussing ideology with, of all people, an ideologue.  Yes, it was a maddening conversation, particularly when she told me she not only worked for, but promoted, the Republican Party despite her often disagreement with its policies because the GOP was “most likely to reflect my core values.”  When I suggested to her that such a principle often excluded quite a few of those who could also be of assistance (and often shared her stated values), she scoffed at me and simply stated that “we must choose a side if we are mature adults, and I’ve chosen a side that best represents my values even if we don’t always agree.”  She also went on to describe how the Democratic Party was opposed to her value system, and that her membership in the GOP was not just a testament to their best representing her core values, but also a mechanism by which she could oppose those who were not in line with those values.

I must admit that I don’t understand such a principle even as I see it as widespread.  I would much rather work with everyone who agrees with my vision than be exclusive to a group that only shares part of my vision.  If I wish to live in a society that exercises governmental fiscal responsibility, why would I not work with those who agree even if they are Republican, Libertarian, Democrats or whatever other party one can find?  If I wish to live in a society that doesn’t kill convicted criminals, why would I not work with those who see capital punishment as something that needs to end regardless of their Party affiliation?  If I want to work to ensure the poor among us are paid a fair wage, why would I not work with those who agree with this vision and limit myself to only those who may not?  Only working with those who agree with part of my vision means I can’t reach my goals is like trying to climb a mountain by taking a trail that only leads us half way there.

One must also remember that when you state membership in one ideological party you usually and  immediately state opposition to the others.  I often wonder if ideas brought up by Rand Paul or Harry Reid would be provided more consideration is we had no idea if an “R” or “D” followed their names.  Imagine if our politicians were “just people” without a stated preference to an ideology.  Would we be more apt to listen to their ideas?

So, when asked what I am I say “Kind.”  When asked what ideology I support I say “Kindness.”  When asked what my social platform is I say “Being Kind.”  When recently asked how I reach my goals I said “smile.”  It’s a simplistic way to overcome the ideological divide that those who ask those questions are usually searching for.  I dare anyone to be opposed to “kindness” (although I have met some who certainly take the dare).  In this way I am not against their ideas or for their ideas, and we can simply move on to find common ground beyond those ideas.

(Disclaimer: The term I used, “move on,” is not meant to reference any political or ideological agenda.  Any relation to any such entity is purely coincidental.)

Gotta Vision, Now What?

Ok, so we now have an understanding of our vision.  Now what?  Well, now we need to understand how we can see our vision become real.  For me, well I love to write so that’s one way I see my vision become real.  Others may decide that protests are their best way.  Go to it.  Others may decide that running for office is their best way.   Get on a ballot.  Others may feel that serving people is their best way.  Start serving.  Whatever you decide is your best path toward your goal the idea here is to start walking it.  If you are great at asking for food for the hungry, start asking.  Just make sure that you find someone who is great at feeding people so that you can compliment each other in giving food to others.

That leads me to the next step.  Once you have decided what your vision is, and once you have found your best path to making the vision real, start walking it.  Now you have to find others who share your vision and compliment your strengths as you compliment theirs.

For instance, I may be a great negotiator but a horrible event organizer.  With this knowledge, I know I need to find someone (or many people) who can organize the events necessary to see my vision real.  I may do a tremendous job of getting local food outlets to provide food for the hungry, but unless I can get the food from the outlets to the people my efforts are wasted and my vision unrealized.

The best part here is that I don’t need care if those who I am working with are conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist, pro-life or pro-death penalty.  We share a common vision, and as we work for that common vision those ideas we have become pretty meaningless in the activity.  In fact, I’d almost say the sharing of such ideas outside of the shared activity can be counter-productive since most of us seem very attached to our ideologies.  So much so that we would often destroy our vision just to be right about an idea.

An Important Disclaimer

It seems whenever I write about something ideological in nature I need to laden it with disclaimers in order to “keep the record straight.”  I am not blaming you, the reader, but rather me, the author.  Why?  Because I have no need to alienate someone who sees this article as a socialist ploy to end capitalism or a conservative’s attempt to divide the people.  I also don’t want anyone to see this as a dogmatic attempt by me to tell you how to live your life.  It’s important to me that you know that I simply wish to provide you my insight as one who was a very reactive changer to one who has seen an error in my ways.

It’s important to me because I want to work with each of you for social change.  Yes, each and every one of you has something to compliment my vision just as I have something to offer you.  The purpose of this article was not to provide grounds for separation or alienation, but to share just one method by which we can promote unity and strength of purpose.  If you find some points of alienation here, please step back and remove those points from your mind and find something we can agree on!

In fact, whenever we disagree on something we should immediately step back from it, agree to disagree, and move on to a point of unison.  For instance, I am a vegetarian.  When I sit down to eat with someone who enjoys a steak, I don’t mention the meat on his plate.  Rather, I’ll say something like “those veggies look great!”  If they try to engage me on my lifestyle I will answer them, but quickly try to change the subject to one of unison.

“You don’t eat meat?” asks Mr. P.

“Nope, haven’t in years.  I was having some nagging health issues that pretty much disappeared when I made the switch, and honestly I don’t miss it at all.”

“Man, I couldn’t live without my meat!  I don’t know how you do it.”

“I understand.  Have you ever seen the movie Earthlings?  It documents the horrible nature of the meat industry.  It shows in a graphic detail the suffering of animals used for human meat consumption as well as the deplorable conditions these animals live in.  I seriously couldn’t get through it it was so graphic and horrible.  Here, I’ll pull it up on my iPhone.”

Ok, I’m just kidding.  That is an example of how the old, ideological Tom would have handled the conversation.  Today, with my mantra in hand I don’t need Mr. P to be a vegetarian.  Particularly if the dinner is to discuss how we can work together to feed the hungry or end the dumping of trash into our oceans.

There is much strength in unity.  The trick is in finding it without letting our differences get in the way.  For me, that means invoking the mantra handed to me by Michael Chase via a a very wise woman from behind a podium.  “Am I being Kind?”

What is your mantra?  Ω


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