How to Make Social Change Part of Your Daily Life
In the last few years — maybe the last few decades — watching the news has felt overwhelming. I’ve taken breaks here and there but have mixed feelings about letting go of news altogether. While I am happier generally when I ignore the 24/7 commentary on the news, to not know what is going on feels like I am cut off.
So I tried an experiment. I started using the news (and yes, some of the 24/7 commentary) to look at how I would like the world to be and to look inside myself to see how I could support that new state. I used the news to make social change part of my daily life.
First, I looked at what I reacted to — what made me mad or talk back to the newscaster — because that’s where the juicy stuff is. Take, for example, the ongoing revelations from women about powerful men who had used that power to take advantage or women sexually. As a #metoo experiencer this angers me and brings up all the feelings of powerlessness and dehumanization that I had during my experiences.
Then I looked at the state in the world I would rather have — a world where we look after one another rather than exploit one another, which of course included that we don’t need to live in fear that a job offer has sexual strings attached. But also went beyond it in a more general expectation of mutual support. I used this awareness to see where I was living up to this ideal myself and where I needed improvement.
I tend to be a “live and let live” person, but I remember when I was younger not having the confidence to make the most empowering choices for myself and caving to pressure or second guessing my intuition. Now I notice when others lack that same confidence, or are in a situation that they don’t realize could be more complex than they think.
So when the very sharp new gal at supermarket who was checking my groceries mentioned that she is thinking of taking college classes but is scared of failing, I told her that she was smarter than she gave herself credit for, to give college a try and to be sure that she used all the support in place for students to help her reach her goal. Did she do it? I don’t know. Was what I said to her a big deal that took me out of my way or cost me time or money? No. I was in the grocery store line and she was ringing me up. I’d be there anyway.
And that’s the point. You don’t need to join a movement or quit your job to make a difference. You just need to be aware of what you want to support in the world and choose to support that reality in your daily life.
I saw such potential with this approach to social change that I then wrote about the kind of world I wanted to live in. I can be pretty wordy so the basics were: I wanted to live in a world where everyone had the freedom and support to reach their full potential, that we see the value of a person and their contribution in the service or benefit they provide and not in how much money they made or generated, that we feel secure enough in our survival and support system that we are generous, kind, have the time to really be present with people, that we all have time to explore our unique creativity, take the time to regenerate and truly enjoy life, and that we look at our planet as a being we need to caretake rather than a disposable cash cow.
I could go on and on.
But the point is that when I wrote out the world I wanted to live in, I began to make the changes that supported that world. I became more generous and more appreciative of people whose contribution was what we considered “unimportant” because it was non-monetized — like the cheerful young man at the pool I go to who has Down’s Syndrome, but is always smiling and happy even when everyone else is a grump. Hard to stay grumpy with him around. I became more aware of nature and spent more time in it. I am more open to and supportive of people’s opinions and life choices, and the freedom they have to experiment with what they think will make them happy.
I am creating the change I want by how I live my everyday life. It’s magical in the way it is paying off. As I pay more attention to the world I want and actively choose to support that world, I see the ways we support and respect one another, how we have made such great strides in the last years to better caretake our planet and the amazing and imaginative ways people are developing to do this on a larger scale. I find, too, that when I treat those who I disagree with or dislike with the same consideration I do with strangers or those I know and love, that I change. I soften into loving and accepting them as they are because that is the world I want to live in — where people who disagree with me can still love and respect mem even if they think I’m nuts. I find as I soften to and accept others, that they soften toward me and accept me, too.
So give it a try if you like. Imagine the world that you want and how people treat one another in that world. Then be that, do that. It’s okay to start with people who you are comfortable with, but if you really want to change the world, extend those same courtesies to the people you disagree with, too.
That’s when social change really happens, when you change. Because when you change, your world changes. Then, eventually, hopefully when enough of us do this, the whole world changes.
But it starts with me, and you.