Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What are change agents and change mentors up against?

Change is hard because the societal system is set up to maintain the status quo. Those in power not only resist change and make change hard, they set up society to make change unthinkable.

I've researched change extensively and am in fact starting a support group for individuals and leaders looking to work toward change at the evolving edge. Learn more details about my vision and get a longer explanation.
We must BE the Change
Meanwhile, here's an introductory summary:

Since the 60s, feminists and other radicals have encountered resistance to the societal changes they envision. A friend responded to my FB post about recent misogynist behavior saying, "This is a very big problem in my country, because we have a divided school system that doesn't allow very much support for children from uneducated families." She went on to say:
In my belief it is a hard thing to educate the politicians to give us equality. The easiest will be to educate our children along these lines, so they - in a natural way - will understand on from the beginning, that there is no difference in man and woman. We are equal from birth. Who is educating children? Normally the woman, the mother, the teacher! So it is in our hands to change the world.
While she's right on both counts, she's also overly optimistic to think mothers' awareness could spark change spontaneously. Rather, it will require those of us who are consciously working to improve the situation to become more active role models and guides for these potentially-influential women.

The Influence of Mothers

Starting with children can indeed be very influential. But changing their perceptions isn't really as easy as saying women, who see the world's problems, can educate their children better to improve societal imbalance. Yes, mothers have HUGE influence on the next generation, both girls and boys. However they, like all people, are SO enmeshed in the societal indoctrination that EVEN IF they are aware things need to change, they often don't realize that what they are doing reinforces the problem rather than working toward a solution.

Influencing Politicians

It is even harder to educate politicians because they are remote from reality, positioned as the people in power at the top of the pyramid, influenced only by those powerful enough to be at a level that gets their attention. To disturb the status quo threatens their whole hierarchical structure.

A rational debate will never sway politicians from trying to protect their "rights" -- that is the laws and rules of society that they have set forth to maintain the current power structure. The only way to approach inspiring them to change requires an emotional appeal. A new perspective begins only when your appeal reaches to the core values held in the heart and your target people can start to actually feel the pain of those they ignore, neglect, and abuse. (Even then, the change implemented is often only a surface adjustment or even mere placebo effect, reassuring the protesters that they were heard and making cosmetic accommodations while leaving the underlying infrastructure untouched.)

As long as politicians remain above the fray, they can dehumanize those they legislate against and see them as a category rather than a person. This is why stories presented in person by real individuals affected by the laws or rules are powerful change agents.

Influencing Marginalized People

ALL marginalized groups (women, minorities, the poor, the aging, children) are equally embedded in the current system to which all in society have been trained since birth. Parents teach children to obey; institutions (church, schools) prepare children for the expectations of society; the community reinforces the way things are, every word and action demonstrating the rules of the group: the games kids play establish the rules; punishments "fit the crime"; tv shows provide role models; music sets a guiding rhythm; the talk on the streets and in the news keeps informing public opinion; even the language itself subtly sets the stage. The whole socializing schema is set to keep society in line with the current power structure.

Creating an Environment to Support Change

From this basis, change is a challenge. By the time girls are old enough to become mothers, they are part of the system. When the education process is limited or teaches by rote, thinking remains an undeveloped skill. By the time we are adults, new choices require conscious assimilation. This is neurologically MUCH more difficult that learning as a child (the difference is physiological), and change from old habitual living patterns takes both conscious awareness and more effort still. Generally, adults only embrace change when confronted by a big enough crisis to make continuing "as is" too painful to continue, and even then it is usually a struggle -- because on our own, we don't have a model for a different way of being and we have to make it up as we go; this is why support groups are beneficial.

Change Agents and Change Mentors Need Support Too

I've researched this all extensively and am in fact starting a support group for individuals and leaders looking to work toward change at the evolving edge. I'm currently in a contest to help me put my ideas out in the world. You can see my "manifesto" vision for it at -- and if you sign up on the contest website, you can vote for my vision and it will get you a longer explanation that I am sending to interested supporters.
I wonder... what you think.
Photo Credit:

1 comment:

Crystal Pina said...

Change is hard for people to handle. Even when the change is a good change. We like what we like. Sometimes we even like what's not good for us because we don't know if what's coming is worse.