Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Systemic Vs. Personal Change

I had this brief exchange with Caitlin around personal and systemic change. We were thinking particularly about how one deals with inequality, but I think it applies to many kinds of transformations we hope for our family, community and world. I know I'm simplifying an incredibly complex set of thoughts, but our question is often: “is what I’m doing making any real difference?” We all want so badly to feel as though our actions have meaning beyond our day to day lives. Of course, it's not just about how we feel-- it's whether there is actual impact. But feeling inspired and effective seems to be part of having impact, because perhaps we remain inspired to learn.

Personal change
My view of social change was greatly helped by N.T. Wright’s, Surprised by Hope, who makes a case that everything we do on earth can actually part of building something new forever. That earth and heaven are not as discrete as we might think. I only a vague sense of what that really means, but I’m convinced that whatever we do to create a more equal, more just world is also transformative for us at an individual level.

Systemic Change
My public health background compels me to add that I’m also convinced that we have to make the good choice the easy choice. And that’s systemic change. And yes, I want to tell you what the good choices are and guide you to them... moohahaha... Joking aside, my ideas of our need for global, systemic change towards equality guides my views on poverty and therefore my politics around taxes and social programs. It also guides my career choices.

In order to be engaged from a systems perspective, I think we need to be convinced that basic equality is better for everyone. We have to live that reality through our day-to-day actions. When we zoom out too far, we lose sight of what the person beside us needs right then and there. Here’s a TED Talk that helped articulate this thought better than I can:

I'd love your thoughts on justice, from whatever perspective is inspiring you out of drudgery right now.

Update: In honour of World AIDS day, here's an article about a New Style of Activist

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