September 6, 2013

Are We Missing the Point?

We resist. We kill our television. We fight. We protest. We rage against almost every machine.

This is what we do.

We don’t eat meat; or gluten; or corn; or soy; or dairy; or honey; or berries and nuts that aren’t foraged from the wild, or fruits and vegetables originating from greater than a 20 mile radius from our kitchen. (We might be hungry by now.)

Or maybe we do eat meat, but only if it is from our backyard. And maybe we do eat dairy if our neighbor made the butter. And maybe we do eat soy, but only once a week.

We check out.


We extract ourselves—at least we think we do—from a system we don’t support. And this might not be a bad thing, if the goal is to simply not support something we don’t believe in.

I wonder though—is not being part of the problem being part of the solution? Is going off the grid “being the change we want to see in the world?” Maybe—maybe not.

In Saturday’s New York Times there was an article about “activist investors.” The article itself was about a company buying large shares in Microsoft…blah blah…money…blah blah…hedge funds…blah blah corporate blah blah blah.

In short, none of the article pertains to what I am writing about except that investors have decided to use their power to instigate change. Becoming radically involved in the system can be a great force for change.

The New York Times article reminded me of a group of activist scholars who have, and still do, take issue with the privatization of America’s prison system. Scholars usually do things like write, speak, make media appearances, they basically do a lot of communicating. Instead of publishing more papers for conferences and journals, these scholars have decided to collectively buy shares in private prisons so that they might actually begin to improve the living conditions.

Who knows if it will work, but it is certainly more effective than extending our actions to wearing a slogan on a t-shirt or having a lot of information stored up for use at weekend dinner parties where we talk with lots and lots of people just like us.

My point is, a lot that needs to change in our world.

However just checking out and crossing our fingers that by example alone we will improve the world around us might be missing the point. The cattle rancher that we will never buy beef from doesn’t actually care about us. Apple computers doesn’t care about our change.org petition to improve working conditions in China because there is a high probability we made that petition on an Apple computer.

They think about the customers they have, the customers they reasonably expect to lose and the ones they think they can get back.

If we’ve are already checked out then we are no longer a factor in their equation.

What if we became like the activist scholar who realizes there might be another way to influence the world around her? What if we took all of that frustrated energy, stepped outside of ourselves & likeminded communities, and tried something new?

Form community support groups to help small and medium businesses learn to change their practices, strategically invest in companies that aren’t quite perfect but have the potential for change, work to have onsite childcare so parents can reasonably bike or take public transportation to work.

Problem solve.

Instead of taking yourself out of the equation make yourself a variable no one can ignore.

Instead of checking-out try radically checking-in.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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