How to Make Change
Posted on 10 August 2015
I am in the midst of shifting gears. I still want comedy to be a part of my life, but I want it to be more in service of making larger social changes. As such I have been speaking with academics here and in the US in order to put together a scholar (lecturer/researcher/student) owned non-profit cooperative university. The major emphasis will be learning and researching collaborative skills under practical circumstances.
I have already begun experimenting with this as Friends Institute. It’s a small start, but I’ve been busily tracking down partners in this endeavour.
A year ago I wrote a review which contained in it advice about activism. I am choosing to follow my own advice. As such I feel an independent article is needed, since the advice should be discoverable on its own. So, I am reprinting a version here.
If we are serious about a desire to create change, we need to think about the processes that make it possible. In that way our efforts can be stronger and more useful.
The first step is locating the problem. We all love to think how clever we are, because we know enough to judge others. This is not the same as having insight and recognising the bigger picture. For instance we can get caught in arguing about whose body shape should be considered “beautiful”, when really no one should be judged for the aesthetics or the attributes with which they were born: whether it’s weight, gender, ethnicity, ableism, etc. The quality of a person’s character, something they choose and develop, is much more important.
The next step is to propose and develop solutions. Comedy is good at throwing out ideas that are “so crazy, they just might work”. Because these things are said for laughs, they get past the naysayers. Even flights of fantasy get people’s brain cells working on the problem. This is also the antidote to disempowerment and cynicism. A light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.
The third step is to educate and recruit. Help others to understand the problem and recruit them to implement a solution. It’s no good sitting around in an exclusive group feeling self-righteous. Nothing gets done that way. You have to learn how to reach out and cooperate with others. Be very careful of discussions that serve to further polarise and atomise people, when now more than ever we need people working together to stop environmental and economic disaster.
The final step is to take long term action. You can hold a “we hate Tony Abbott” protest, but if you cause him to be removed as Prime Minister, he may be replaced by another Liberal Party member with equally egregious policies. And what if Labor gets into power and continues human rights abuses against minorities and boat people? Stay focussed on the issues. Know that achieving goals such as fair treatment of gays may be a long haul endeavour. Bolster one another’s efforts. Help one another to find resilience. Regularly partake of tonics such as joy and laughter. Most of all practise universal friendship.
Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of (kinship). If this is to be achieved, (humanity) must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 10, 1964
Peace and kindness,