Things have to change, that’s for sure.

A lot of people have come to that conclusion recently. A lot of movements, large and small, have cropped up in response to that conclusion.

People are thinking. They see things like ignorance, apathy, corruption, violence, crime, poverty and desperation. They start looking for root causes and they often whittle it down to one institution or another. Some blame government, others blame religion, some think it’s their society’s approach to education. Maybe it’s the media, or a lack of morality—maybe it’s simply the existence of a certain idea like communism or nationalism or anarchism.

Some see it as an unhealthy combination of all of these things. And they’re right to think systemically. Society is a dynamic, moving, fluid “thing” composed of individuals, social institutions, organizations, governance systems, business arrangements, ideas and more. It is impossible to pinpoint one of those things and say, “That’s the problem. That’s what needs to change.”

Still, things in general within society don’t seem to be going well these days. Things in general seem to be falling apart!

Societies have fallen apart in the past. It’s nothing new. The difference now is that it’s happening amidst a population of aware, educated, liberated people—most of whom are more than capable of seeing, feeling or intuiting that their society, and consequently them, are on a dark, foreboding path. 

Nevertheless, I’ve been seeing a certain approach toward our problems rear its head more and more lately, that approach being: “Tear it all down!”

I hear things like:

“Well, animals don’t send their young to classrooms to be indoctrinated. Education itself is a ridiculous institution.”

OK, animals don’t really endeavor to do much of anything except survive and reproduce. (Obviously, some animals like gorillas and dolphins have slightly more complex social arrangements, but you get the idea.)

Or, I’ll hear:

“Government is immoral. Get rid of it altogether.” 

Well, then you’ve got a bunch of unsupervised people with jet fighters and nuclear bombs running around. Then you’ve got no rule of law and no hope of justice beyond taking matters into your own hands. That’s never gone well.

For societies to operate at all, certain institutions must exist. Government is one of them. Education in some form or another is too. Various moral institutions crop up around everything from a society’s most treasured ultimate values to what they think is acceptable or unacceptable speech. Businesses, even those mean old corporations, provide us with products and services and jobs that are required for the urbanized society we have created over thousands of years. Moreover, they enable large, beneficial projects that would be unfeasible otherwise.

This is not to say that these institutions don’t need to change as well. They do! That’s the whole point. The issue is how they should change and how we can sensibly enable that. Our institutions are a reflection of the society that we’ve created, and as such, are built upon the same values, beliefs and ethical principles that brought us to this unfortunate crossroads. It all becomes so daunting when you start to realize the scope of what we’re up against. It’s not as if we can just take our metaphorical screwdriver, make a few minor adjustments to the social machinery and expect anything substantial to happen. We’re too far gone for that.

What needs to change is us. And that might be the hardest thing to do of all.

In the spirit of things, let’s examine “change,” shall we?

Change implies that some system existed and that a different, new system has emerged out of it. It’s a matter of states. There was a state of affairs, now there is a new state of affairs.

The current state of affairs, in America at least, is the mentality that more stuff is better. It’s the mentality that coercion and force—upon other nations, each other and ourselves—is perfectly acceptable. It’s the mentality that while our politicians are corrupt and stupid, there’s nothing we can do about it and it’s not our fault. It’s the mentality that we deserve something for nothing. It’s the idea that we can have total freedom and total security at the same time. It’s the mentality that other peoples, other ways of thinking don’t matter—or maybe don’t even really exist.

The new state of affairs must be different. That’s the “change” we require. Tearing down the social machinery will only result in new, maybe worse, social machinery. It is only when we become fundamentally different that our thoughts and subsequent actions will permeate and ripple throughout the rest of society, gently molding our institutions into what we will them to be.

Now, you might be thinking: “Telling us that we all need to change really isn’t all that helpful.” That’s true. The real question is how to go about doing that. People and societies change on their own anyway. The difference now is that we have past failed revolutions to learn from. While we know that ideology alone never works, we do have relevant principles that we can apply. So we ought to be able to get some sense of what is possible and beneficial. This investigative work has been done as part of TOP. It doesn’t give answers but it let’s us all think for ourselves, and does offer some sort of general direction that is both feasible and desirable.

Check out the next blog and we’ll talk about how THEE can enable healthy, conscious social change.

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