“Change or die”
I want to help make this world a better place. For you. For your future, and your loved ones’ futures.
You and I might have different beliefs about how to get from “here” to “there”, from this current somewhat-troubled world to something better in the future. Or we might have identical beliefs, I don’t know.
You might believe that to get from here to there, we need more economic growth. More technology. More religion. More individualism. More capitalism. Stronger police forces and armies and bigger prisons and stiffer criminal penalties. No abortions. Less taxes. More hierarchies. Less immigration. Stronger national borders. You might believe all of these things, some of these things, or none of these things.
Personally, I believe none of those things. But if you do, I don’t “hate” you for them. Truly, I don’t. I probably don’t understand why you think those things, but I don’t think they make you, innately, a “bad” person. I hope you can extend the same generosity towards me, if I believe radically different things than you.
Like, I might believe in multiculturalism. In one big global smorgasbord. I might believe we need to down-scale the economy, and eventually replace it entirely with a community-based model that barely exists yet even as an idea. I might believe in less unbridled development and use of technology. Less religion. Less individualism and more collectivism. Less capitalism, or none. Fewer laws, softer penalties, less military spending, smaller prisons. More freedom to have abortions. Less hierarchy and more self-determination (which some call “anarchy”). No national borders, or at least more open ones.
You and I might be almost the complete opposite of each other, in terms of our beliefs!! If we are, we each probably would like to deliver a similar message to each other — “Change or Die”.
Your message might go something like this — Change or die. The world is a scary place. There are bad people out there. Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, psychopaths, and the sheer brutality of “nature”, disease, and all the other things that can kill us, are threatening us from all sides. Immigration and multiculturalism are erasing tradition, history, the stability of family. People don’t have any sense any more, heck we don’t even know what a “man” or a “woman” is anymore! Socialism = death. Collectivism = mindless conformity. The government is corrupt and our taxes go to special interests and political virtue-signaling that does nothing good for any of us, except to make the strong weaker and the weak more dependent on handouts. We’re losing traditional values. We’re losing common sense. So give your head a shake.
The best thing that’s happened to humanity, ever, is capitalism, because as the economy has grown, so has human well-being. People are less poor, more educated, more “equal”, more free, more healthy, less violent, than ever before!!
You might say — There are all sorts of threats in the world, and that is PRECISELY why we need fewer radical revolutionary types trying to “change the system.” Instead we need more faith IN “the system!” More respect for the ingenuity and sacrifice that has got us this far! Civilization depends on structures and institutions, depends on laws and punishments and borders and people who have their shit together holding the reins and keeping the rabble in line! So, if you’re some “activist type”, then stop being so ungrateful! And naive! Respect everything you’ve been given, pull up your socks, roll up your sleeves, make your bed in the morning, and WORK, with the rest of us, on making our society bigger, stronger, and better.
And if I disagree with you, you’ll likely repeat those arguments, more forcefully, with more facts, citing more historical examples, pleading your case more passionately. “Change or die.”
But my message might go something like this — The world is a scary place. We are causing mass extinction around the world, collapsing the food webs, destabilizing the climate, increasing military investment and escalating the likelihood of massively destructive wars. We are hurtling towards a world with less arable land, less food, more refugees and the desperately poor, more starvation, more disease, fewer checks and balances on the abuse of power by tyrants. Capitalism = death. Individualism = violence.
Decisions are made by the Powerful and Wealthy, to increase their Power and Wealth at the expense of us all. We need a stronger social safety net, fewer people falling through the cracks, which requires more taxes probably, but results in the “strong” being more generous and the “weak” receiving help that will enable them to lift themselves into better lives.
What you call “traditional values” are lies fed to us by oppressive institutions and as a result, we are losing traditional Wisdom. We’re losing the humility of listening to our elders, our ancestors, and our descendants-to-come and learning from them what is “sensible”. So please, open your mind to new possibilities. As the economy has grown, human well-being has grown for some, but at the increasing sacrifice of the downtrodden, and the increasing destruction of the very foundation of Life — the air, water, soil, and sense of Community. Society might be less violent for the lucky, but only by offloading this violence to the near-invisible masses who provide the almost-free-labour that we’ve exploited, whose ecosystems have been ravaged for the resources we’ve used, whose bodies have been poisoned by the effluent we’ve dumped into their spaces, those places we, the privileged, don’t inhabit nor want much to do with. People are suffering, and that suffering is about to increase, exponentially, as the global biosphere unravels and our planet, our collective Mother, rejects us as a failed experiment. We are on the brink of civilizational collapse, and our own extinction may only be a single generation away.
I might say — There are all sorts of threats in the world, and that is PRECISELY why we need more radical revolutionary types working to “change the system”, and less blind faith in “business as usual.” More respect for the ingenuity and sacrifice that stabilized our communities and built bridges of peace throughout history! Civilization depends on trust, depends on freedom and autonomy and fewer walls and people who have wisdom to inspire all of us to engage with our higher virtues and our common values. So if you’re some “conservative type”, then stop being so prideful and closed-minded! And naive! Respect everything that has been taken, unfairly, from others for so long, and the sacrifices that have allowed our current civilization to attain the power that it has! Open your eyes, reach out in humility and WORK, with the rest of us, on making our society friendlier, more compassionate, and better.
And if you disagree with me, I’ll likely repeat those arguments, more forcefully, with more facts, citing more examples, pleading my case more passionately. “Change or die.”
The result of this will, I practically guarantee — be nothing. Except further polarization and deepening commitment to our own viewpoints. You’ll think I’m nuts. I’ll think you’re nuts.
You’ll go ask people who agree with you already what they think, tune into those news channels, read those ideologically-congruent articles and watch those YouTube videos that parrot your own beliefs, and you’ll feel validated, and more certain that you’re right, and shake your head at how stupid I seem to be.
And I’ll go ask people who agree with me already, tune into those news channels, read those ideologically-congruent articles and watch those YouTube videos that parrot my own beliefs. And I’ll feel validated, and more certain that I’m right, and shake my head at how stupid you seem to be.
“Change or die” does not work. It convinces basically nobody. Changes almost no behaviours. It’s like being attacked by an enemy. You don’t open your doors to them and welcome them into your home. You barricade your door, dig trenches, lock and load.
This is one of the biggest reasons the “environmental movement” has largely failed. And it’s why it will likely continue to fail. Unless it changes its strategies.
And besides, trying to change in order to avoid something catastrophic is a pretty shitty way to find meaning in life. Sometimes it’s necessary, perhaps, when you are faced with tragedy and disaster. But still, is the goal of not suffering something catastrophic an inspiring way to live? Does it fill you with passion? Does it fill you with joy? Do you feel deeply grateful for a life in which you desperately strive to avoid tragedy? Isn’t there a better way?