What it Means to Change the World
“Dude!! Let’s…change the world!!”.
Auughhh. Like yours, my skin crawls every time I hear it. “Changing the world” is the latest nails on the chalkboard of Modern Life…an eye-rolling platitude…a gut-churner of a buzzword…shouted daily by thousands of high-fiving business-class wannabes in chinos…the worst invention since the Company Theme Song.
Ebola? Who cares!! Dude!! We’ll call them emergency Ubers!! Climate change? Buddy, chillax!! We’ll send the flood victims tacocopters!! No life? No problem!! Everyone can have robo-friends!! They’re better than humans!! Unemployment? Let them Taskrabbit!! Who needs a career…an education…a life…when you can be a butler?!
Don’t worry, bro!! Dude!! Don’t you get it? Digitally connected superwatches will rescue us!! They’ll make us transcendent superbeings!! The Human Condition?! We’ll app our way out!! Glory be!! Hallelujah!! Sing it with me!! We’re not just here to make money, we’re…changing the world!!
If you believe that Ubers, tacocopters, and dating-slash-butler apps…change the world…especially this world…you’re not just clueless. You’re hopeless. As in without hope that the world can be a truly better place. If that is all you imagine changing the world to be, rest assured that you have failed to understand it…at all.
Here is what it means to change the world. In the most concrete of terms. So you cannot mistake my meaning.
Make a vaccine for Ebola. Give the half the world missing it clean water, education, sanitation. Fix global youth unemployment. Give women and minorities a way to use the web without being harassed. Give every single person in the world a basic income, human rights, free speech. Make a trust fund and health insurance plan for every child on planet earth. Create affordable housing to replace the world’s megaslums. Discover clean energy. Cure cancer, Alzheimer’s, mental illness. Extend the human lifespan. Voyage to the stars.
That is what changing the world is today.
Sound impossible? It is.
Changing the world isn’t merely what is reasonable, expected, probable. It is what is laughable, crazy, ludicrous, hopeless, impractical, preposterous. It is what is unimaginable. Uncomfortable. Unreasonable.
Apps, gadgets, hearts, likes. Taps, clicks, swipes, screens. These numb us with comfortable titillation. They thwart us from dreaming the unimaginable. They make us altogether too sensible to ever pursue of the unreasonable.
“Let them call Ubers!!” is something like the “let them eat cake” of a new gilded age of…butlers, maids, chauffeurs, courtesans, debtors. What we think “changes the world” today doesn’t change…any of that. It only rubs salt on the wound…or maybe is the wound. And so it is worse than mediocrity incarnate.
We don’t celebrate great scientists, artists, thinkers, scholars as world-changers. Instead, we celebrate billionaires, impresarios, tycoons. But the only people we’re shortchanging when we make such a fatally foolish mistake is…ourselves. For we have swallowed nothing less than the tyranny of the ordinary.
Think about it for a moment. Do you think Travis from Uber or the creepily misogynistic guys from Tinder “changed the world” more than Jonas Salk…Galileo…Einstein…Gandhi…Martin Luther King? Do you need a brain transplant…and a soul? Are you a dummy? There have always been billionaires, tycoons, hucksters. But there haven’t always been polio vaccines…cosmologies…theories of relativity…civil rights.
See my point, broseph? Getting my fucking message, genius?
Changing the world isn’t helping your bro find a date by coding an app. Changing the world isn’t feeding your frat house by building a tacocopter. Changing the world isn’t turning life into a perma frat party by making a shot that can fulfill all your daily nutritional needs.
Things that make people…butlers, chauffeurs, maids, courtesans…debtors, sharecroppers, zombies…don’t change anything. They are merely more of the same. They redeem no human suffering; enhance no human potential; spark no human accomplishment; transform no human being. They do not create anything truly worthy that might not have been otherwise. There is no greatness, nobility, goodness, justice, or truth in them. There is merely the same old ugliness, cruelty, despair, and self-deception that has always been.
And so. If you believe that is all there is to changing the world, here is what you are.
You are a pessimist. You are a fatalist. And you are a totalitarian. You believe in…butlers, chauffeurs, maids, courtesans…the weak serving the mighty…the mighty offering them the lowest-common-denominator…and the purveyors of all that owning the world.
And so you have not changed the world at all. For people since the beginning of time have resigned themselves to…all that. The story of mankind is the story of pessimists, fatalists, and totalitarians.
But the point of mankind’s story is the rebels, renegades, and outlaws who ignored them, scorned them, and damned themselves to believe. In the ascendancy of life, of greatness, and of necessity. And triumphed.
There is something mightier. Than all the fame, wealth, shots, lovers, parties, dollars, titles that will ever be.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with the person you were meant to be. The one who changes the world. And triumphs, at last, laughing, just for the briefest moment, against death, decay, cruelty, time, undoing, all the hidden fatalism in every last heart.
Let us change the world. As it was meant to be changed.