Most people would like to create changes in the world around them. Regardless your political party, your religious belief, or your social network, it’s likely that you can think of ways that your environment could be made more accommodating to . . . well, you. I’ve been giving this matter a lot of thought. Perhaps you have, too.
Let’s clarify to start. I’m not talking about change that is essentially directly in your personal control such as what you eat, where you work, whom you marry, where your family vacations, etc. I am talking about broader change that extends beyond your immediate social network, change that impacts other people. We often call this kind of change activism or promoting causes. If that’s the kind of change you want to make, you have some options:
- Capitulate. This is always an option, but the casualty is you, or at least your cause. This is where we get the phrase “You can’t fight City Hall.” You can, of course, fight City Hall, but c’mon, they’re a bunch of civil servants. How much fun is that fight going to be? Plus, it’s 1:15 and they’re all on their 2-hour lunch break.
- Declare War. This is a very popular option. There are plenty of wars and rumors of wars: the war on poverty, the war on the rich, the global war on terror, the war on Christmas, Wizard of Warcraft. The upside is it’s extremely easy to rally the like-minded self-righteous to a holy war and whip them into a frenzy. The downside is that there are always casualties in war. But the other upside is that you hate those casualties anyway because they oppose your cause, so no big loss. Of course, there’s the risk you may be the casualty, but only because those evil-doers somehow bested you. Darn you, evildoers!
- Provoke Conflict. This is similar to declaring war, but instead of going all out, you hang back and snark or pick at things until others have to deal with it. On the upside, much less personal risk. On the downside, the subtlety of this approach means that most of your awesome well-placed barbs and jibes are going to go right over peoples’ heads, especially short people’s heads. Which is a real drag because if you have to explain it, well, why bother?
- Outsource. You can try to goad someone else into championing your cause, which greatly lowers your own personal risk. However, it also really lowers your control, and the so-called champion may have ulterior motives that you dislike. Affiliating with others to achieve your goals can sometimes compromise your actual position in subtle ways. This is one reason they say that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Can you live with yourself the morning after?
- Persuade. This sounds more positive, but if you are trying to change something where you have a very low degree of control, good luck. You may have already figured this out, but some organizations don’t really want your input. But if you find an avenue into a receptive audience who has power to effect change, persuasion can be effective. As with politics, your more extreme interests will be the casualty of this approach, but you can effect change generally to the degree of your influence. Of course, trying to persuade someone who doesn’t value your input at all or who views you beneath their notice could result in a “Let them eat cake” response. Then again, cake is delicious!
- Wait. When communism fell in the Czech Republic, it was called the “Velvet Revolution.” They say that communism was “laughed out of power” because it had been so obviously a failure that it was simply ridiculous at that point. If you wait long enough (and you are right), your changes will inevitably happen. Of course, you may be too old and jaded at that point to enjoy them.
So, which of these methods do you think is the best when trying to effect change? Do different ones work differently in different situations? What types of changes would you like to effect (if any)? How do you personally effect change? Discuss.