How we change the economic pattern in this country peacefully becomes a relevant question. Now, some people gleefully decide that they don’t want to make the necessary changes peacefully. Their suggestions of armed insurrection are too costly, inefficient, and unthinkably destructive. There is a more beautiful way.
One of the advantages of having studied social psychology is that I took a course about social movements. Do you know that people have been making vast social changes peacefully for centuries? We do it all the time. Peaceful revolutions are not covered in history classes, but social scientists know all about them. Most social change occurs peacefully. I’ve lived through a few social changes and watched how the principles and pieces worked together.
Social movements occur when the status quo does not meet the reality of the needs of the people. Now, the power elite is invested in maintaining the status quo. The Koch brothers and Waltons are not going to suddenly lead a movement that cuts their profits or monopolies. The government is not going to offend their campaign contributors. When someone is elected or appointed to a government office the power that appointment gives them aligns them with the money class and status quo rather than with the common people who voted for them. Yet the population continues to grow. Technology changes, and values about what is decent change with improving economic conditions. The social changes necessary for a society to adapt to changes in population, technology and economics have to come from the common people.
Now some people are in a position to do more than others, but we all can take a few simple actions that will push the change along. The first step, as my father use to put it, is, “turn off the damn TV.” Our power elite controls our media and they are not going to help us. Historically, social movements occur when people start talking to each other. Listening to the TV is listening to the power elite. We need to listen to and talk to our neighbors.
Turning off the TV gives us the quiet we need to think. It may also give us the peace and time to plan a little get together for the people next door-nothing big, just a half hour to meet and greet. This is where the real power of social change begins. We need to start talking to each other. We need to talk to our neighbors. We will soon find common ground with people who we thought were different from us. My neighbor next door is a social scientist, like me. Another neighbor is a musician, like me. Another neighbor likes to garden. We are all Seahawks fans. From this common ground we can move forward.
True confession time: In my semi-rural neighborhood, we have seven houses that would make a logical unit for helping each other and becoming a force for change. Mostly, we don’t speak to each other. Currently, two of the houses are vacant. One house is waterfront. The owner is rich. The people next door are elderly shut-ins. The people across the cul de sac are a young Mormon family. The final younger couple travel for work. My health issues keep me from doing as I ought. Still, we need to change these patterns and focus on our common ground.
Our common ground should involve knowing each other well enough to help out during a crisis. I should be asking the woman next door if she needs something from town. The man across the cul de sac should be taking responsibility for plowing our driveway when it snows. The rich woman owns a poodle too. I should be taking my poodle to the other side of the fence for playtime.
The small activities I mentioned are the first baby steps toward social change. When we get to know and trust our neighbors, we become invested in their well being which is essential to our own security. I’m fairly certain that we can find enough common ground to support each other through some of the other changes we need to make.
As a group, we need to help each other move our savings to the local cooperative credit unions. We need to carpool. We need to be taking care of others pets when they are away. We need to be cooking communal dinners when the power is out and the highway closed with down trees, which happens at least once a year and may last up to five days here. My neighbors could be eating the plethora of eggs my poultry produce. We need to be learning from each other and valuing each other.
These few small activities may not seem like a huge social change, but multiply the one gallon of gas my neighbor saves when I pick up milk and a prescription for her by a million such gallons saved by sharing errands and that will make a difference. Teaching our neighbors to keep their money in our community rather than sending it to New York through their bank, will make a difference when multiplied by millions. When we have a nation, where the common people stand together as friends and simply say no to injustice, change will happen with the added bonus of making some new friends.