How Individuals bring social change

From my current experience within an existential existentialist crisis (what meaning can a life of meaning have when societies are not durable and civilizations rise and fall); I have come to understand that there are absolute truths. They are beautiful and boring, both at the same time.

But what the specific truths are, are in fact clichés – and they fall flat for the majority of us as trite and as bumper sticker caliber and resonant as simple truth – for an absolute truth is the distilled essence, and it is elegant and beautiful – which is why truth is beauty and beauty truth and that is all we know or need to know as Keats wrote – and thy do not need to be defined in relationship to a third factor to qualify theme as is endlessly debated in literature classes – which makes truth is beauty so simple and elegant and absolutely true in and of itself – therein lies the beauty!

The clinches are conveyed to us in poetry – which very little that is claimed to be poetry actually is – for poetry is extremely structured and economical, highly compacted phrases and words with multiple nuances – and not, as o called modern poetry is, lacking reason and rhyme and tends towards randomness and chaos – for in this state, there is no truth as everything is equal, with the same and no meaning at all.

Structure is a framework for understanding, and people who avoid mastering structure in favour of making their own story telling – which is about the construction, the structure – cannot convey meaning to their audience, with whom, the structure is the framework of understanding and meaning.

Knowing what forms denote a sonnet, we can understand the form and the meaning within and be able to determine the success or failure of the sonnet to achieve it’s ability to convey meaning and the value or beauty of the meaning.

Much like a sport has meaning from the game rules and conventions – one can enjoy any sport where the rules are understood and followed – and watching a game with an uneven number of players in widely diverse uniforms, on an unfamiliar field and equipment and inconsistent plays and referee calls would make little sense and be frustrating – even on a pleasant weather day with an alcoholic beverage and no place else to be. So does poetry and story telling derived meaning from the rules and the framework of the rules.

Our culture, our civilization, our beliefs and everything else that generates meaning – which is to say, anything that communicates meaning to us – is dependant on the framework, the rules of the framework and the resulting actions, relationships or objects.

Self esteem is no different – when we derive our self esteem from an internally sustaining source of self worth – we truly have boundless energy. What throws us out of kilter and lowers our self esteem are external messages that demean or deny our value.

But we are an object in a larger structure – each acting independently in a social structure that has conventions and rules – which are derived from the social framework.

So, if your self worth comes from within, but your society does not recognize your individual value – then you have to question the validity of your value or the values of society.

When enough people question the values of the society – social change occurs. Women got to vote. Slavery was legally abolished. Civil rights are enshrined and as more people accept that change in the social framework, the civil rights become enforced and over time, just part of the framework.

This way, it remains possible for a person to deny marriage to gays and lesbians, but cringe in horror at the suggestion that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

People who are amendable to change are those who’s personal framework of self value is inconsistent with the social rules and framework – or, they are people who’s personal framework has only recently been accommodated within the social framework and are still feeling the rejection keenly enough to empathize with other groups who are out of sync with the social framework.

It’s all fine and good for gays and lesbians to have civil rights enshrined in law when white gay and lesbians are then able to move about the white mainstream, while non-white gays and lesbians – who often worked to achieve the advancement, inclusion in the social framework, but who continue to be second class in the social framework because they are not white, they battle a compounded out of sync as non-white gays and lesbians. They are faced with mainstream discrimination as non-white members of a largely white society and discrimination as a gay person in a mainstream heterosexual society, and as a non-white gay person in the smaller non-white sub culture of the mainstream society. So, a white gay person in a largely white society faces the single level discrimination as gay in straight-world, but the non-white gay person faces two counts of mainstream and one count of subculture discrimination.

The characteristic that you value – yourself, your sexuality, your beliefs, every factor that makes you you – when it is not tolerated or even criminalized by the larger society – you face only two options. Change yourself or change society.

You are an agent of change.

What opposes you are the people, and their larger groups, who dominate society and make the rules within the framework. The framework is very influenced by religion or political agendas – which is why societies that are more homogenous are more harmonious – the majority is accommodated in the existing framework and there are very few minority groups or individuals seeking accommodation and inclusion.

That the Scandinavian countries have the highest standards of living and the least amount of social discord is not because they are Scandinavian, but rather because the majority of individual members share the same primary group identifiers.

This is why it is almost funny that the Nazi party idealized tall blonde and blue eyed people – they appear to have the best society – but, this is a ideology based on a faulty premise that it is the characteristics, rather than the degree of a set of characteristics that are shared. What makes the Nazi ideology is laughable is that the Scandinavian countries largely rejected Nazi ideology and the highest ranking Nazis were not at all Scandinavian.

So, back to societies in general and away from the evil that happens when political or religious ideology corrupts absolutely when that political and religious ideology is not kept in check and balance with the larger society.

The reason that social advances arrive in fits and spurts is actually a numbers game. Change literally does start with one person standing up and challenging the social conventions. When enough other people stand up and demand change on their own or on behalf of other people, then change occurs – first in law, and as people acclimate, then in practice – the change then becomes the convention, which people then defend the convention from further change – when the changes are not consistent with their own self value in relationship to the social rules and social framework.

This is how a religious person who is convinced that a person’s value is based on their compliance with god’s will – whatever that is currently defined as – will claim to be loving of all people while opposing a legal change that recognizes that person’s social value. AKA love the sinner, hate the sin. Which means, it’s tough love and tough noogies for being socially accepted you sinner.

The religious person will resist social change that means that a person they do not value – ie ethnic, sexual and belief minorities (beliefs being religions other than ones’s own, political views other than one’s one, or worse, non-belief) – suddenly has social value – because the one thing that a religious and political fundamentalist believer values above people, is compliance with the rules of the framework. The framework being their religious or political (usually their religious and political beliefs)  beliefs.

So, it is not the case that the Republican Party – you know, Lincoln’s party that freed the slaves – is being highjacked by the Christian religious right who oppose further advancement of rights of other and specifically sexual minorities – but rather that the party has been hijacked by religious fundamentalism that is unable to see that there is a difference between religious law and civil law. When you listen to the religious fundamentalists – how they define what is it to be an American – conformity, my country right or wrong, god first and country second – this is the very framework of theocratic nations; which are seen by the American fundies as a special kind of enemy for failing to share the values of what America stands for individual sovereignty and rights and freedoms – which if you exercise them, you are not a good American.

It truly does do your head right in if you think too hard about it.

But, this is why the fundamentalist are so driven to force everyone to comply, because then you don’t stand outside of their logic and see the obvious flaws. That they have no internal self worth and can only feel and having meaning within their preferred framework (their religion)

Fundamentalists are agents of status quo – they oppose change because change means that they have less personal value, and worst, if people who fundamentalists see as less valuable (women and other ethnicities) are deemed by the larger society to have value – then it calls into questions the fundie values who value the rules of society above all values. Largely because they expect to be able to be the primary if not only source of what those social values and rules and framework are.

Fundamentalists, individually and collectively, to retain value, have no option other than to oppose change. Reformers, individually and collectively, in order to gain value, have little option other than to create change.

So, we have societies that are currently dictatorship under religion (theocracies) or under an individual (political ideologies personified by a personality cult – ie Hitler, Stalin, Ghaddfi, Mao, etc) and we have societies that have stabilized under a duality of a two party system – then, we have more multicultural societies, as countries with alternative systems with a multiplicity of parties and often are democratic in other than first past the post systems.

The countries, and by extension the populations that enjoy the highest standard of living – with respect to life span, wealth distribution, health care, crime rates, economic participation and all the other measures that make life meaningful and enjoyable – are the countries where the population’s defaults are homogenous (ie: Scandinavian countries) and are xenophobic as a result – or countries which have a multi-party and more complex than first past the post systems of government and with a diverse population where, the majority of groups within the culture are deemed to be equally valuable both as group and individuals in relationship to one another.

Part of being a reformer, is to not be content with the social framework until all groups within the society achieve that equilibrium balance – which is why here is a sequence to the establishment of rights.

So, in the USA, Ethnic minorities had to be equal to the mainstream ethnicity in law before gender rights with respect to women being able to vote could occur. When gender rights become enshrined in law, the social convention of sexuality necessarily becomes a public discussion – as each of us in turn, compares and contrasts our sameness and differences – and, as each of us individually determine value, we align in shared value groups, who then align in interest with other groups and eventually social change becomes a juggernaught.

Society, becomes a perpetually sustained cycle of  change, as the unconventional becomes the convention.

Thus, the cliché of conventionality resonates with truth and is tiresome; both at the same time. And ain’t that beautiful?

10 thoughts on “How Individuals bring social change

  1. Pingback: Atheism is to religion as rehab is to addiction « Random Ntrygg

  2. “One can move to the society of their choice.”

    I’m reminded of the family from Victoria, B.C., Canada who moved to get as far away as they could from what they expected to be WWIII. They moved to the Falkland Islands just in time for the war there.
    I’m also reminded of the old story about the guy sitting on his front porch. When people asked him what kind of neighbors he had, he’d ask them what kind of people were around where they came from. “People where I came from were mean and sneaky and nasty”
    “Well, I expect you find people hearabouts the same.”
    or
    “People where I come from are warm and generous and really good neighbors.”
    “Well, I expect you’ll find people hearabouts much the same.”
    I don’t think we can move to a culture we like. It might be a good idea to avoid the bible belt, or Pakistan, but people are people wherever you go.
    I don’t really have much to say about your thought, Nina. Not arguing with them at all. Just poppin off with thoughts you have stimulated, and stimulation is much appreciated.

    • granted, we are limited to moving to countries that are willing to take us

      and often, that includes having to adapt to the other aspects of the culture – like, names, language and religions in theocracies.

      I guess it’s really about deciding what’s more important and finding a way to live where your most important needs are met and find accommodation and trade off for the balance

  3. Pingback: Darwin Harmless » Blog Archive » The FreeFox Debate on Jesus and Mo

  4. ooo math error!

    a white gay person faces 1 mainstream discrimination as gay in straight world

    but a non-white gay person faces 2 mainstream discrimination counts – non-white and non-straight; then they face 1 discrimination count in gay subculture as non-white; AND they face 1 discrimation count in their ethnic subculture as gay in straight world

    so, white gays in a white mainstream society have 1 count of discrimination

    but a non-white gay in a white straight mainstream society face 2 mainstream discrimination counts, plus 2 subculture counts in two sub-cultures

    it’s no wonder that non-white gays aren’t feeling included in mainstream gay society and they are correct when they say that we don’t understand their pain – and we can’t – it is four times what we had faced.

    Well, assuming all other discriminations being equal – ie that the white gay person is not also discriminated against for socio-economic, mental/physical ability, single parent

    discrimination stacks in a way that it all appears the same – as discrimination – but the compenants vary widely and are felt differently

  5. Wow. Great post. Much to think about. You’ve really restated Mao’s perpetual revolution doctrine, but in less ugly and violent terms. More (maybe) when I’ve had time to think about all this.

    • That post is a wholly unedited first draft compulsive writing episode, interrupted for 30 mins by a phone call with my Mom.

      I found myself thinking about Coleridge and Xanadu, and had to tell my Mom that I was hanging up now.

      and I can’t even tell where the interruption was.

      I read the Communist Manifesto when I was in high school in the late 80’s and I thought Marx was really naive to think that people could put the group before themselves.

      But I look at Japan and how they’ve been managing in the wake of the quake, and in particular the people in the reactor, and I think about other people who’d dedicated their lives to ideals and endured prolonged prison

      and I think that if enough of us were to be better and demand better – that would make the Armstrong song what a wonderful world have meaning in the happy sense, not the maudline cliche way it’s used over movie sequences of battle or other destruction.

      oh yeah.

    • I am actually not at all familiar with Mao’s ideas – but the reason that I avoid violence is because violence is chaos to me, it’s too great a variable to be an effective tool on a mass scale – violence to my mind is an effective deterrant on a personal basis but only if you can carry it out – I am old school Viking on this – don’t brag if you can’t back it up.

      Since I have weak wrists and don’t like a lot of heavy exersion, I prefer thinking solutions to violent ones. Distance weapons have no honour.

      That said, the other reason why there is no violence in the prepetual revolution is that people have the option of moving to other countries now.

      If you know what kind of country – ie social framework – that you wish to live in – there is enough diversity of societies that you have an option that has not been previously available to earlier generations.

      One can move to the society of their choice.

      So, you can change yourself or change where you live by changing the place you live or by changing where you live.

      The only thing stopping fundie xtians from moving to Islamic theocracies is that they would also have to change their religion – which, shouldn’t be an issue as the details of the religion are window dressing – as the existance of interfaith committees proves.

      Well, proves if people accept their premise that it’s all the same god worshipped in different ways – so if that is truly the case, then the method of worship is all equal in merit as a path to their chosen and external god.

      So the only hang up preventing the xtian fundies from moving to theocratic nations is their values that they actually hold dearer than religion – which is wealth and power.

      Their particular religion gives them access to wealth and power in the US – and it would not in an Islamic nation – which are barely pre-industrial living standards for those not in power.

      However, the poverty is supposed to be the ideal way to get into heaven – so why do the religious right accumulate wealth and power?

      because they are kindly keeping it away from the masses so we get heaven and they have a harder time of it later?

      gee, thanks fellas, but I think the masses would like to feel some of that wealth of pain

  6. Sometimes I wonder if the theocratic fundies hijacked the republican party or the plutocratic republican party is using the fundies as mindless labor to get them re-elected.

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