By Wade Lee Hudson
Personal, social, cultural, and political changes headed in the same direction are contributing to social transformation. Self-empowerment, community support, cultural shifts, and political action are reinforcing each other. No one predicted legislatures would adopt gay marriage so quickly, the Florida legislature would pass a gun control bill, or the West Virginia teachers would win their strike. Evolutionary revolution is underway.
The March for Our Lives, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, teacher strikes, Poor People’s Campaign, self-help, holistic spirituality, democratic management, and public-benefit corporation movements are examples of emerging transformative change. Donald Trump exposed an unhealthy side of the American character, especially with how he treats people. In so doing, he provoked a growing affirmation of America’s higher ideals.
The Florida high school students who initiated March for Our Lives are particularly encouraging. They focused on demands already embraced by strong majorities of the American people. They involved diverse communities. At their D.C. rally, they limited the length of speeches and included powerful musical presentations. They focused on an important tactic: the ballot box.
In addition, when a mini-counter movement, #WalkUpNotWalkOut, called on students to befriend alienated peers rather than join school walkouts, one of the March for Our Lives leaders, David Hogg, embraced that campaign and replied, “#WalkUpAndWalkOut.” And when Fox News host Laura Ingraham insulted Hogg on air, he called on major companies to withdraw their Fox News advertising, and many did. Significantly, he didn’t focus on himself. He criticized her for routinely insulting others. In those two instances, he demonstrated sensitivity to how we treat each other, a very important issue.
The formation of ongoing multi-issue alliances could help realize the blooming potential. Alliance members can briefly support one another at key moments while continuing to work on their primary issue. Together we accomplish more than we can fragmented. With greater unity, we will gain momentum. build critical mass, reform social structures, and make our society more democratic. America will renew itself.
A systemic worldview that addresses root causes and clarifies how issues are interconnected can help build unity. To contribute to that process, with aid from many colleagues, I wrote Transform the System: A Work in Progress, created the TransformTheSystem.org website, and invite people to work together to advance transformation.
Transform the System: A Work in Progress argues that our institutions, our culture, and each of as individuals are woven into a self-perpetuating social system, the System. The System’s driving force is the pursuit of more wealth, status, and power over others. Climbing those ladders usually involves looking down on those below -- and feeling inferior to or resenting those above. Though the culture is shifting, most Americans still spend most of their time dominating or submitting. Children submit to parents, students submit to teachers, workers submit to bosses, and wives submit to husbands. People assume someone must always be in charge.
If we transform our nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the welfare of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself, we will achieve systemc transformation. Achieving that mission will involve creating new institutions and reforming existing institutions, our culture, and ourselves.
New ways of organizing political action can help with that effort. Activists tend to focus on getting others to do what they, the activists, want them to do. They rarely engage in critical self-examination, acknowledge mistakes, resolve not to repeat them, and support one another in those self-improvement efforts. They focus on behavior, the outer world, and neglect inner experience. That approach undermines effectiveness.
A common problem is arrogance. People tend to resist activists telling them what to do. Some activists receive training on how to talk to potential supporters, but they rarely receive training on how to talk with them.
There’s no need for anyone to dictate to others how they need to change. Self-development is most fruitful when individuals define their own goals. But providing mutual support for self-defined personal growth can enhance effectiveness.
Personal, social, cultural, and political change are equally important. It’s not a matter of which comes first or which is most important. The more we change the world, the more we change. The more we change, the more we change the world. Each reinforces the other.
Widespread agreement on a systemic worldview could speed up change and help grow massive grassroots movements that push for compassionate changes in national policy backed by overwhelming majorities of the American people.
When we unite and fully activate our better angels, we will achieve systemic transformation. When that will happen can’t be predicted. All we can do is take the next step. But our day is coming. The wind is at our backs.