Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Changing the World


I have been reading a book lately on social statistics. It has led me to a feeling of renewed optimism toward being able to change the world. So often, we are left feeling too small, or too irrelevant. We reach too few people, and the inevitable reality is that only people who are in power can make real change.

I believe that every person in the world should be able to throw their weight around in a small but meaningful way. Our society has lost the ability to listen to the little people. How has this happened? Power is only ever given - never assumed. You think John Howard is powerful? Well, you voted for him. If not him, then another mug, right? Wrong. You think the police are powerful? Well, you obey them. Ultimately, fitting in with the conventions of society is a good idea for us all, but at the end of the day, people with power only have it because as a society we allow them to keep it. If you don't believe this, take a look at how quickly the rule of the powerful can change. History is replete with major changes in public thinking, both good and bad. Ghandi could never have attained political power were it not for the numbers of people he was able to rally to his cause.

What is mysteriously unclear is what separates the Ghandis from the Nobodies - the people who just do their job, pushed around by the impersonal will of society.

Statistics shows us time and again how many would-be-revolutionaries fail. But, from out of the mass, exceptions inevitably occur. It is tempting to view these distributions as probabilities - that is to look at the correlation, and assume that there is a cause. But that's not really how it works. Those who fail don't really fail through some cosmic roll of the dice - there is a fractally fine-grained sequence of decisions and events, each leading logically to the next. While the overall view of society gives us some foreknowledge of the kind of way in which the future will unfold, it tells us nothing about why one individual may fail where another succeeds. It is wrong to assume that the difference is the result of chance, or that we are virtually doomed to failure. What we have is no information about the why's and how's.

Big changes come from little changes, and things that succeed tend to do so quickly. Society is made up of conflicting but inter-related individuals, and changes to society occur when suddenly a new idea is spread rather than hindered by the relationships between individuals. This doesn't mean that the idea is right, or good. Fear and loathing often spread as easily as peace and economic prosperity. Society is not certain to always improve, but can only change when its individuals not only permit that change, but re-enforce it.

Changing the world isn't like moving a weight with the mass of society. Changing the world is what happens when you kick the first stone of an avalanche.



Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

One of my email readers provided me with the following link for people interested in the way our minds deal with revenge...

9/22/2004 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

The same link, but prettier

9/22/2004 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger infidelchick said...

"Whys" and "hows" have no apostrophes.

9/30/2004 03:45:00 PM  

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