“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right”
—The Beatles, Revolution
There are a lot of things to be angry about right now. Even more, it’s something in the air. My own temper has been shortened. Everything is a trigger because everything is, somehow, about politics and/or race. The entire world is a cultural minefield.
There are a lot of people that profit off this outrage. They want you mad so they can make more money off their advertisers. Why else would so many of us be so educated on the weirdness going on? We spend all our time learning about new things we’re supposed to be outraged by.
It’s easy to spend all your time defining how you’re being wronged that you forget to define what you actually want.
It’s easy to react against what is; it’s hard to create what could be.
And that’s fine, we’ve got to understand, to some degree, where we are. Still, if we get stuck there then we just get burned up. The famous mythologist Joseph Campbell has an idea for this:
“Revolution doesn’t have to do with smashing something; it has to do with bringing something forth. If you spend all your time thinking about that which you are attacking, then you are negatively bound to it. You have to find the zeal in yourself and bring that out.”
For anyone that actually cares about making a difference, dedication to tearing other people down won’t work–no matter how upsetting they might be.
When we’re outraged we amplify the worst in ourselves and those around us. When we’re reactive, we might behave worse than the person or group we’re trying to shut down.
Maybe action must be taken, but not any action.
Snark is hardly revolutionary.
A broken window has rarely made a point.
Protests usually change the protesters more than the protested.
It’s hardly worth mentioning, but your political post on Facebook is probably changing nothing. Either are mine.
I’m not suggesting folks do nothing, just that if you want to be effective, outrage probably won’t help.
Anybody can react in anger or outrage. It doesn’t take any work. What takes work is persuasion.
If you want to persuade someone, you can’t offend them first. In fact, you’ve got to try and see their way of seeing things. You’ve got to steelman instead of strawman. You’ve got to have the cojones to see the world differently–even from a perspective you don’t respect.
Then you’re free to act effectively. You see what’s needed, what’s possible. Instead of flailing around, making the world worse for yourself and others, you’ve got a chance at making things better.
True service means focusing on making things better for our communities in the long run. It’s not about thoughtless remarks that are satisfying in the short term. It’s about how we can reshape things so they are better for future generations.
We don’t have to understand the world to move in this direction. We just have take a breath, then a step.