Changing society without changing people, Part 1

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One of the biggest problems I encountered before giving up on existent answers to the question of how to improve society was that every platform for social change seemed to require convincing a bunch of other people that it was the one true method before anything actually got accomplished.

Social change does not require consensus. Pursuing consensus as a starting point for change presents two considerable problems: 1) convincing a bunch of people that their worldview is wrong is impractical, and 2) it is disrespectful.

You’ve met zealots before–maybe a vegetarian, or a libertarian, or a Dave Matthews fan or whatever–you’ve met someone who felt like they had some bizarre duty to convince you of their worldview. And they tried. And you brushed them off.

We don’t like being told what to do or believe. I’d go so far as to offer this as a principle of human motivation: we are far more motivated to conduct ourselves in a manner freely chosen than we are in finding the absolute best way to act (I think I stole that from Dostoyevsky). Trying to convince someone to abandon their ideology because it’s founded on false premises is like telling someone to stop smoking cigarettes because it’s bad for their health. Even if what you’ve said is true, you’re aren’t going to convince them of anything, and you just might reinforce their belief or behavior as they respond to perceived coercion by further entrenching themselves in the comfortable fortress of individual choice. The rightness or wrongness of the choice doesn’t matter.

On top of that, we’re not all capable of agreeing on the fundamental truths of the universe, if there are any to begin with. The diversity of the human experience is far too vast. You may offer religion as a counterpoint, but have you ever sat down with two Catholics or two Jews or two Muslims and asked them to explain how their ontology translates into action? If you have, you heard two personal explanations that were far from identical. More than two or three people can scarcely decide where to go for lunch (and I stole that from Heinlein), much less unify around a single plan of action for how to fix society.

And that’s okay. We don’t need to change people in order to start changing society. Nor should we want to, because we’re never going to be certain that our method is any better than the existent ones. We just know that those didn’t mesh with our beliefs and we need to try something else. So that’s what will do, and people can participate if they want.

In Part 2, we will examine the implications of this post and the conclusion of the previous post–that people generally follow the path of least resistance–to offer a rough outline of a plan for social change that circumvents many of the problems with existent methods.

SorenChanging society without changing people, Part 1

5 Comments on “Changing society without changing people, Part 1”

  1. Shardé

    IVE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR A LONG TIME!!!! Your words do not fall upon deaf ears! I’m going to place this post in my blog. Loves it. Keep up the great work.

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