Sunday, December 05, 2010

Where does CHANGE come from?

So as some of you may know, I'm currently working on this big project dealing with activism, involvement and social/political change.  More details on that later.  For now, here's some stuff that I've been kicking around in my head for a while.  Basically, it's my philosophy of change.  I'll be using it as an intro for the project.  Any thoughts?

Change happens at four levels:
  • Personal: critical self-reflection and education (reading books, taking classes, thinking about issues).
  • Interpersonal: face-to-face direct service work, volunteering, raising awareness, starting conversations with friends and family, etc.
  • Institutional: organizing to challenge oppressive or unjust systems; attacking the root cause of a problem rather than its symptoms.
  • Cultural: broad-based "hearts and minds" change.
This project works from a pretty basic philosophy.  Real, meaningful, lasting change comes from people working and struggling together to attack the root causes of problems.  That isn't to say that volunteering at the homeless shelter, voting once every two years, writing poems about the issues you care about or reading lots of books don't do anything-- it's just that none of those things can create real change if they are divorced from organizing.

The four points above are really an activist ecosystem-- we need all four (not necessarily in equal proportions in a given context) if we really care about making the world a better place.  That may seem pretty simple, but a whole lot of people get wholly caught up in one or another.  Some people are all about knowledge and being the perfect more-progressive-than-thou super genius; they know the issues inside and out, but they don't ever do anything about them.  Others are all for "smashing the state" or whatever, but never take the time to do the critical self-reflection that effective activists need.  As the old saying goes: "thought without action is a daydream; action without thought is a nightmare."

At the end of the day, understanding is not enough.  "Raising awareness" is not enough.  Winning some abstract debate about an issue is not enough.  Waiting for the previous generation to fade away is not enough.  If we want to create real progressive change, we're going to have to struggle for it.  We have to be smart.  We have to be proactive.  We have to be relentless.

That's all meaningless, however, if we don't know where or how to start.  This project is about streamlining the process, about turning liberal thinkers into progressive activists by making it as easy as possible to plug in and get involved.

...more information to come.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kyle-I like where you're going with this. My approach towards working for change is to identify organizations that advocate for things I believe in, and find a way to help them advance their cause (I have more time than money). An example is the mosaic dog I donate to Home for Life to auction off each year.

Something I've been thinking about lately is the challenge of consistency in ones actions as they relate to values. For example, it's easy to "hate" a place like Wal-Mart for their enormous presence and poor treatment of workers in so many communities. But, isn't it also necessary then to avoid using most large businesses that are essentially doing the same thing? I'm thinking of any large grocery store, departments store, gas station, etc. Where do you draw the line?

People should dig deeper, know what they're fighting for or against and why - not just be about the hype. Betsy

Patrick Nathan said...

I think you've successfully articulated the four levels of change. It's something I've never really thought of before but seeing it laid out thus makes it look quite simple.

What kind of project is it, if you don't mind me asking?

Guante said...

thanks. the project is actually well underway; I just want to make sure it's really ready once we launch. two main parts:

1. A website/database of organizations who are doing good work. The entries include description, contact info, website and how to get involved.

2. A massive promotional campaign utilizing existing networks in other communities-- hip hop, arts, youth work, etc. aimed at getting more people involved in organizing.

I'm really excited about it. Hoping to launch in Spring and then re-launch (bigger) in the Fall. Will definitely update here.

Rachel said...

Just had to say this sounds like a project I'd love to be a part of in the future.

And a couple of suggestions.

A film and a conference.

1. ReGeneration: the director is from MN and used kids from Eagan HS. I haven't seen it but it looks super tight.!/video/video.php?v=393983647507

2. I don't know if you're interested in the intersection of theatre and social change at all but it's all that I've been in to lately--

Stay up man!