Shake-Shake-Shake-Shake The Room
To my fellow agitators, here’s an open letter of real talk and encouragement that I thought we needed. Perhaps I’m projecting, and it’s just me who needs it. There are a lot of sidebars and in-depth explications of things you might already know or just not particularly care about. Feel free to skip those!
tl;dr or just the listening type? Here’s a nice mostly error-free recording for you (maybe still scroll down alongside for the doodles though!)
Vocaroo | Online voice recorder
Vocaroo is a quick and easy way to share voice messages over the interwebs.
When people are asked to imagine the expanse of history, the time, and the timeline of things that have occurred, various different images come to mind, depending on the person. Some see our standard visual representation of a timeline in the Western world: a line going from left to right, intersected by short dashes, with things scribbled above and below.
Some people imagine an arc of some sort, maybe light, bending, and bending, ever reaching towards justice. Some people picture footsteps, two steps forward, one step back, representing this idea that our journey, our narrative as a people, is far from linear and constant, instead it zigs and it zags, turns around, and regresses over past gains, learns old lessons and fails new fails, but also, somehow presses ever forward, if you would just zoom back far enough to see.
I always pictured like a penny coin: small, brown, only ever so slightly raised from the ground. And it’s laying there peacefully for a moment then suddenly, it begins to vibrate on the floor. It’s vibrating and shaking with ever more frequency and amplitude. Soon, it’s twitching, it’s leaping into the air with small jumps. And finally, inevitably, a burst of energy lifts and flips it to fall over onto a new side and a new position. And then it’s just this over and over and over again for infinity.
That’s what human society does, to my mind: settles, then it agitates or rather, it is agitated, and eventually in a burst of transformative energy, it flips.
A Revolution Guarantees Nothing
There are two reasons I prefer this visual analogy. Firstly, it seems to me to concede an important concession that a lot of others don’t: i.e. that you can’t always see for sure whether when the coin flips and it lands in a new position, that it has progressed per se. Like yeah granted, it’s technically moved, you could argue forward from its previous position because it’s flipped and landed in the place after. But you could also say that it was a step backward, or up or down, or left or right, or any direction, just depending on the vantage point from which you viewed it.
And I think that’s an important reminder that there can be agitation, which then results in energy gathering and releasing until it flips society onto a new face and into a new place, but it’s not a given that this new situation is necessarily better than where it previously was.
In other words, this analogy captures the fact that there are two separate bits to a revolution and you can have different permutations of each in any given case. Change is gonna happen always, eventually — but how exactly it happens is different each time. Moreover still, what those flips and the new position of the penny ultimately mean, and where they take the “society” as a whole, that’s to be decided.
The other thing that the visual analogy of the flipping penny captures that I like, is the mechanism for how change happens.
The Movers and Shakers
Change happens because agitators — tiny little things, way way down if you zoom all the way down into the penny coin — shake, and that energy gathers and causes impact, as it travels and dissipates through the system.
They keep shaking it, keep agitating and some foundations crumble, some things collapse. Some new things grow in this space that is left behind. They shake, shake, shake, shake. And then boom, it bounces so high and with such force, it flips entirely.
New narrative, new horizon, new paradigm, apparently. And then the energy begins to build anew.
To You, My People.
Anyway, now that we understand that the mechanism of change, largely rides upon a particular kind of behavior from a particular kind of person, I can now go on to talk about that particular kind of person. Or rather talk to.
Sidebar: How We Come to Be (In theory…)
I know we are not new or original. We’ve always been here. I think for as long as there have been any collectives of people together, there must have been some too curious for their own good, who have the unfortunate luck of getting to see the cracks and injustices in society, and then the worse luck of not managing to care less as they get older.
Ingredient 1: The Curiousity
There’s always that one kid, asking too many questions, seemingly unable to stop themselves — those who simply have to know, and so they ask and they wonder, and they just think a little too much, is the general consensus.
You can never get them to just accept a thing as it is because they have to know why, because they need to understand the root of it. There have always been those of us like this. And I think what often happens with this kind of mechanism or behavioral tendency is that it eventually gets turned on to the question of the environment and society in which it exists, or is functioning.
And before we go off tempted to moralize or place a value judgment on a behavioral tendency like this, it‘s not better or worse than any other way of being, it’s just incidental and came about for basic survival reasons. Here’s an example to illustrate.
As a baby, your brain is looking for as much stimulation and as many rewards as possible. It’s looking to learn and develop and form more connections. So babies are just chock full of “approaching behaviors”, and questions are just one form of that, and there are a bunch of different reasons why asking questions may happen to be the approaching behavior option du jour on any given day.
When approaching behaviors are responded to with some sort of returning stimuli from the environment that is interpreted by the brain as a satisfying reward, then that behavior will be reinforced and keep getting repeated and repeated at every opportunity.
So if for instance, you ask a question, and then you were treated with delight (“oh she’s so smart and so cuuuute”), and maybe even then an answer to boot! You bet you’ll keep doing it, and if it keeps getting rewarded somehow, then congrats you’ve developed a keen dopaminergic compulsion toward asking questions. Your brain has a bunch of reminders that this is a good source of rewarding and reinforcing stimuli, so it’ll take every opportunity. Whatever can trigger a question will trigger one and thinking of a question will start to present some sort of psychic itch, some antecedently motivational feeling that compels you to go seek those answers.
In any case, if you grow up tending to ask a lot of questions, you likely quickly develop a meta understanding that when you ask questions, sometimes you get answers, and not only does it feel good to have scratched the itch and satisfied the impulse, answers also have key secondary value. Because you have the memories of using answers to solve problems or overcome challenges, so you know that answers are great when you have the right ones. Not any old thing will do, but the correct answer that holds up to scrutiny.
And so a penchant for questioning eventually teaches one that it’s valuable to study things and that it’s worth looking deeper at everything you come across because you never know what you’ll find. And that’s what we call curiosity when we see it in people and children.
Ingredient 2: Seeing the Cracks in the System
But in any case, that kind of questioning tendency can only go so long before it’s turned in on itself and weightier matters in the world surrounding. And asks questions like: why am I like this? And indeed, why are we like this? Why is this like this? Why are people mean to me and others who look like me? Why are people starving? Why is there war? Why are we falling sick?
Ingredient 3: Never Learn to Fucking Let it Go
It does go one step deeper within that category, because then there are those who, as they ask themselves questions about the society, also find themselves extremely affected by the proof they see of things not being as good as it could be.
Perhaps our own current suffering makes it impossible to ignore the problems and our very survival demands we find solutions. Perhaps our past suffering makes us empathize with others who have or would face the same, and as we understand more of what the root causes are and understand more that change is possible, we become obsessed with the idea of saving others as we would have liked to be saved.
Maybe it’s even simpler and it’s just that we’re all wired to be disturbed by the suffering of creatures that look like us, our species — which is just part of the parcel of impulses that direct us to be social in order to multiply our chances of survival. And some of us never find a way to get rid of this aversion to human suffering. We can find no logically resilient justification for people experiencing avoidable tragedy and so we are stuck with the default setting of finding it distressing.
We can’t look away and we can stop seeing it everywhere. And then our choices are either between just trying to not think so much about it and trying to in our hearts to become callous, to shut down our feelings entirely — or to try to somehow be part of the solution.
And so we’re the ones always getting into trouble because we tried to defend someone that we thought was being unfairly picked on in school, or we were the ones to have been picked on ourselves, and we had no energy to spare for other people. Thinking to ourselves that unkindness shouldn’t happen. It’s not nice to pull someone’s hair, or keep everything to yourself when someone is in need and you clearly have enough to share.
All these thoughts and actions things that are obvious, or feel like the only real option when you don’t want to contribute to anyone having a bad time, but are not the normal behavior of the environment — which is to either perpetuate the injustice or look away lest ye become the next victim.
And not because everyone else is evil or whatever. But because some kids were not thinking so much, so recurringly and repeatedly about injustice or other people and how it’s all connected, and the why of everything.
They were perhaps busy dealing with their own pain, or stressors and lacking the tendency or informational access to chase the root cause and come to understand it systemically.
Or perhaps actually they were just busy enjoying the vibes and having a good time. Just busy experiencing the feeling of the sun on their skin and that tingle and warmth and how it seems to spread into their body and light them up from the inside. They were busy feeling the stretch in their muscles when they ran and they jumped and kicked their feet and pumped the air. And they were feeling nice, oxytocin-based warm and fuzzies, when somebody gave them a press or a nice squeeze or ruffled their hair and kissed their nose.
If I had been wired for that kind of sensory enjoyment I probably wouldn’t have been busy thinking about everything all of the time. I would have been playing instead of like wondering about why grass is shaped the way it is and why this person’s eyebrow lifted like this and that person’s eyebrow didn’t do that. And what the differences between different kinds of eyebrow lifts and what that has to do with what the conversation was about. I wouldn’t have been doing any of that if I could have been busy feeling and having a ball.
So there’s no point really getting on any high horses in any regard. You have the wiring and tendencies you have because you do, any tiny infinitesmal difference and maybe you wouldn’t.
Same Same, But Different
Anyway, for those of us who are in the overthinking camp, and within that, in the overthinking about society camp, and then within that, in the being unable to escape a sense of responsibility to be part of improving things somehow camp… we share this desire to solve problems, to save the world to be a hero to make sure that no one ever has to cry again. Us bleeding heart wankers.
We are all united by this but we shouldn’t forget that it’s only one tendency among a bunch of other variables. A tendency to have a bit of a Savior complex and be capable of deep levels of sadness, stress and depression in response to the reality of the world and how it stacks. But none of that means that you will actually behave in any one particular way because our tendencies are mediated by a bunch of other inclinations, behaviors and constraints.
Like: how much do you understand about yourself and these feelings and tendencies? What vantage point are you looking at the society from and how does that affect what you see? What is your capacity and opportunity for learning about how the things in your life and surroundings give rise to the problems you’re talking about? And were you allowed or encouraged to develop to the maximum? Even if you got the education, and even if you went all the way with it, did your environment encourage you to reach sound and duly complex conclusions, or figure out how to connect your understanding to action?
We are united in our intense desire to see change, but when that desire is mediated through all the other variables unique to us, from our perspectives to the extent of our knowledge, to our other behavioural tendencies, we end up with very different outcomes. So some of us agitate in ways other agitators find unhelpful or problematic. Some of us, pick one area and only focus on that, sometimes missing ways in which our narrow perspective is impeding our efforts. Some of us get overwhelmed by the feelings but have no idea how to actually translate that into action. We are linked by what we wish for and yet distinguished by everything else.
On the other hand those affective variables also mean we end up trying to shake things up in all sorts of very different places. We are teachers and lawyers and doctors and hairdressers and parents and inventors and bakers and scientists and professional email senders and construction workers and janitors and authors and psychologists and sex workers and and and.
Living different lives and making different choices but united by an ability to see the cracks and an inability to just let it go. An inability to stop obsessing about how to make the world better. Some of us trying to teach and share what we have learned, some of us just trying to create more joyful moments for people, some of us trying to find cures, some of us trying to build things for the genuine betterment of people.
Here’s to all of us, because it’s a weird time right now to be this sort of person. It’s never been easy and each era and place have their own version of difficulties. Sometimes, some places, it’s risk to life and limb. For a lot of us today, our difficulties are more so built on confusion and a sense of loneliness, overwhelm and helplessness.
And these feelings stem from a few different places. The overwhelm and helplessness is largely down to knowing too much to find any easy answers, and yet not enough to know what to fucking do. The tragedy of our generation is evident on micro and macro levels. So much awareness of so many complex and interdependent issues to solve that we are perpetually outraged but paralyzed.
The loneliness I reckon is at least in part because we’ve been indoctrinated to carry a strange sort of embarrasment about being like this, and to accordingly keep a lot of it in and to ourselves.
There are appropriate ways to describe yourself if you want to be taken seriously, or in other words, accepted, by your environment. And for various reasons, honestly describing yourself as someone who is desperately sad about the world all the time and obsessed with improving it isn’t really one of them.
You can’t really be like: to be honest, I find it really distressting when people are unkind. I actually can’t sleep some nights because I keep thinking about random awful things that are happening in the world and feeling terrible about them and then not knowing what to do with those feelings because I can’t quite just put them aside because what kind of a person does that make me? Am I in trying to not think about it, abandoning people to their fates? What if MLK or Harriet Tubman or Martha Johnson or Mandela or Hussain Ibn Ali had tried not to think about it so much.
Where would I be and what sort of life would I be suffering if all these other agitators, both named and countless unnamed, managed to care less, and so never do the hard thing, or the risky thing, or the scary thing, or the painful thing?
It’s weird how awkward that is to share. It’s like we’ve pretended as a society that it’s a special compliment that you’re not allowed to give yourself. You can’t call yourself, cool, or pretty, or preoccupied with saving the world.
You can comfortably explain arriving to work in a terrible mood by describing some frustating travel mishap, but you can’t say I saw a homeless woman a few blocks down and now I’m just somewhere between bummed and in despair, because it just shouldn’t be like that and it’s crazy that I’m coming into this office to spend the next 7 hours making some rich people richer, while people are dying on the street.
We allow children that grace, when they express concern for the welfare of others we adore it as proof of their innocence. Maybe that’s the problem. We live in a society that thinks with age should come an erosion of those thoughts and feelings. So when adults still have them it seems incongrous and suspicious.
Because at some point, every kid, even the least neurotic, and most priviledged one, has asked or will ask some question about an injustice that they observe. And then or at some point hence, they’re given an answer that’s supposed to put it to bed. Maybe the answer is the: it supposed to be or has to be this way for this reason, type. Or maybe it’s more the: it is what it is, no point thinking about it, type.
Either way, everybody gets their answers, and they continue along the way. And for a lot of people, the answer works. That’s how they get on with life. That’s how they wake up every day and happily continue to perpetuate a system even when they can see it denigrating people.
And so when they see some of us having not accepted either answer, it rankles. It makes them feel there’s something wrong with us, or with them, or both.
So here’s a little encouragement to own it, loudly and proudly. We were unpersuaded by the answers and we remain fixated on trying to fix the mess we see around us. That’s not weird, or awkward, or a self high five. It is what it is, and yeah it’s probably for the best. Because otherwise you don’t get agitation, you don’t get flips, and you don’t get change.
And I think that one of the other reasons we (or maybe just me, I) need a bit of a pick-me-up is that we’re also pretty down on ourselves. And that’s the funny thing that those who make fun of us don’t understand. There’s nothing they could say to us, we don’t say to ourselves.
Sometimes we’re like: wow, I’m such a fucking idiot. Like where do I get off thinking I’m some sort of main character here to save the world? Oh, I’m really sad about what’s happening on the other side of the planet and exactly how’s that helping anyone? What have I actually changed? What have I done?
We are constantly obsessing about whether we’re just frauds, whether it’s disgusting that we’re taking some personal benefit ourselves out of also trying to do the good work, whether we’re really supposed to be martyrs, and that’s the only way to do it, and anything else is just posing.
We’re worried that we’re insufficient. We’re worried that we’ve made too many compromises. We’re worried that we’re going to run out of time. We’re worried that there will come a point where it’s like, oh, make this sacrifice for this cause or this mission and we will fail because deep down we’re just selfish dickheads. We’re worried we’ll never get to turn these feelings into meaningful change.
So every joke and eyeroll that’s like God, they’re a bit fucking much aren’t they, is nothing compared to what we do to ourselves.
Fresh Toast, Warm Cheer
So here’s a little toast to us, to keeping the head up, and finding whatever works to keep balancing on this tightrope of (1) play the game, partly, to survive, partly to keep yourself happy enough about being alive that you don’t just jettison yourself off this plane of existence, and (2) at the same time, agitate, shake things up and save the world somehow.
Showing up doing that nine to five, if that’s what you’re doing, running that company, accounting to that board, if that’s what you’re doing. Writing that poem. Working in that lab. Doing the thing for your own sake, yeah, but also trying to steer it as much into the sun as possible and trying to make it, I don’t know, impact things for the better.
Maybe by helping to usher in a new narrative about something that our society fundamentally misunderstands. Or by literally building something physically or metaphorically to be part of the solution, a tool, a resource that will lift people further from suffering, and further towards the justest society possible. Go you! Go us!
Yes, even when you’re technically just waking up every day, working for the man and paying your rent and trying to live your best life. Because the very fact that you’re obsessing about it is something. That obsession is just you consistently fueling a state of readiness, fueling the potential for action. You’re just waiting for something to push you over the edge, to catalyze your potential into doing. Some opportunity to present itself.
Right now you just can’t see any way towards the impact so you’re just feeling all the feelings and obsessing about it. You might think that’s just self-indulgent, but no, if you’re truly keeping that fire lit then you’re priming yourself. People who care will always eventually find their way towards a means of contribution.
So anyways whether you’re in the priming and searching phase, or the doing phase, I just wanted to briefly cheer you on for doing your thing, doing your best.
But Then What
And you know what, maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe you do make all the wrong choices. Maybe we’re just in the wrong place wrong time. Think of all the changes, big old coin flips that were preceded with so many failed attempts. All the marches that didn’t yield change, or the battles lost, all the slave revolts that were so horribly crushed, all the times the status quo just seemed to be floating along, immutable, impossible to defeat.
And yet eventually, all injustices of the past have crumbled one way or another.
Sidebar: To Repeat, Change is Guaranteed, not Progress
An important reminder that injustice crumbling does not guarantee what comes after it is more just. Unjust systems have always crumbled because eventually the contradictions, the unaswerable suffering gets too much to bear and the agitators have infiltrated pretty much every element of that society and they’re shaking it from within and without until it eventually crumbles and flips for what comes afterwards.
But that can be anything including a worse system pushed by proponents that were in the wings watching and waiting to take advantage of the meanwhile crumbling or the eventual revolution, and install something to their own benefit. Which is to say, essentially install a system that’s probably going to end up yielding the very same injustices just a little bit down the line.
It could even be that nobody usurps the opportunity. The agitators have their way, but it’s a bad plan because they were spending all their time trying to agitate the status quo away and not enough on planning for the aftermath.
They didn’t have the time, or the wherewithal, or the fullness of information to you know, design a better, and stable new system. Or sometimes they were doing the damn thing, installing something promising and then somebody else comes along and undercuts it or assassinates them just as progress is happening. Someone else who doesn’t understand that what we need to be doing is working towards more justice comes along and says: oops, no, that’s bad for my bottom line, that’s bad for me in some way, and destroys it.
So anyway yes, you might try really hard and still not change the world, but don’t despair. I know it’s hard to think that on top of everything else, you might be in the wrong place, wrong time frame, in which there’s no chance you’ll get to see the whole thing flip and evolve in your time. Our entire lifetimes might be a barely mentioned footnote on the way to real change. But even so, it will still be a critical link in the causal chain.
So even as you worry to a certain extent about whether whatever you’re doing is the best thing to do, don’t worry too much! I mean that. Obviously, employ your critical thinking and knowledge seeking to find the truest truth you can find as to what to do. Just stop at a sensible spot.
Worry just enough about whether you’re doing the right thing but don’t worry too much, because you can never know for sure, you’d have to see the outcome for that to happen, and you’d have to see whether what you’re doing is going to be the fucking butterfly wing flap on the other side of the world that sends some critical ripple you could never have predicted. So try and make sure you’re doing the best possible thing you could do given where you are. But then after that, once you know that that’s true, then just hold on to that.
Because all you should do, all that is allotted for you to do, is what you can. Trust that it will combine with the efforts of others and form a critical part of the causal chain toward that big flip.
And then while you’re at it, the other important thing to do is just try to keep as happy as you can. On airplanes, they tell us to put on our own oxygen mask first, before we attend to anybody else, because you got to be alive and kicking, to do anything.
To do your best, you have to be alive, truly alive and here and not dissociating. Or, you know, burnt out. Or dying in any number of ways. When you think about it, of course, you gotta be here and at your best, to try and flip an entire system and try to save the world.
So make sure to feed yourself the fuel to do the work, to sustain the care.
The fuel is, of course: joy, satisfaction, warmth, love, and energizing motivating moments. Spend time with people, give to people, be of service to people, laugh with people, eat with people, sleep, dance, swim, run around, get together, heal together.
If your job is incompatible with this then please please sit down today and make a plan and a timeline for quitting that job. Ask people, IRL or online for help brainstorming, get a coach, start setting aside time for intensive thinking about it, get support however you can, and figure it out.
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself so that you’re able to spend your best possible energy on either finding the way in which you can be the most helpful, or being the most agitative, having found it.
To the Seekers
And now finally, for those who might still be on their journey. Wondering: how exactly am I supposed to be part of the solution? How do I live in the world in a way that keeps me happy and healthy enough to even have the juice for any fight? How do I figure out the compromise of working within the system or for the system, and yet taking every opportunity to shake it up?
I’m going to leave you with two things.
One, is a reminder that the way we often describe history, in these oversimplified and sequentially linear terms, is incorrect. We say, oh, the feudal system ended and then when capitalism began. Whereas it’s obviously not like that. Multiple systems exist at once, in any given space, in any given structure or civilization. There may be a dominant one at the very top, but all of these different modes of organisation and collective social behaviour are being sort of tried, tested, experimented on, used by different groups of society in different contexts.
And then when the dominant one crumbles, another takes its place from among those that were already there jockeying for existence and for dominance.
So let’s not worry so much about how we’re going to rip the current one down — well, do worry about that actually, but remember also that you need to be part of designing the world you would love to live in.
For me this small mindset shift was gamechanging. I used to panic over this question: how are we going to tear it all down and then what comes after? I don’t know how to cause a revolution. Do I even want to cause a revolution? I don’t really want anyone that I love to die. I don’t want to be in war. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want anyone to hurt me. And even if it’s not that kind of revolution, how as I supposed to change everything? How am I from my stupid little office, supposed to put my hands to work agitating society enough to cause a full flip?
Now I realise: it’s enough to start advancing the version of society that you would like to see. Find the thing you enjoy doing, or you’re good at, that helps people somehow, that contributes to less human suffering and less injustice in the world, and do it in the fairest, kindest, most ethical, ways you can.
Audit your life. Look around: what are you good at? What are your skills? What societal spaces or institutions do you have access to? What power do you hold? Where do you have power, it can be power of being a teacher in any way, being a friend, being a parent, being an influencer in any way, being a builder, a designer, a host, being a leader, being a worker, being a volunteer.
Maybe that means you decide to build or work with an organisation where a good impact in the world is the primary thing. It’s not a secondary or incidental goal while profit is the actual aim. The thing the organisation does is clearly benefitting people, and it’s doing so in the fairest way possible. If it’s food, then it’s about feeding people as nutritiously as our science allows. If it’s, you know, teaching, then it should be about educating to the best possible standard and the most holistic sense of that. If it’s making balloons, then it’s the best, most environmentally friendly balloons, where everything that can be investigated, has been investigated such that there is literally as little harm as impossible, and indeed any harms are obviously balanced against the actual benefit that thing is bringing, and where it’s out of whack, you or the organisation itself walks away.
Maybe you run or work for the kind of business where you deliver value, and the people who can pay, pay and the people who can’t pay, receive it for free. And you constantly optimise your business model specifically to make this possible.
Maybe you take your company and you set it up or refit it so that every single person who works in that company co-owns it equitably: investor, cleaner, everybody has a share, and every one is equal across the entire company.
Maybe you’re good at gathering communities, and you can bring together a bunch of other people in your massive multinational company and start an underground book club that learns and grows and agitates like a union to hold them to account for doing social justice.
Whatever works, man. Experiment, seek and if you find a foothold, keep doing it.
I know that seems trite but I really think it’s that simple. It’s merely that between overfocusing on the size of the problem, doubting the amount of power we have, and worrying about risk, we fail to even try and do that most we can.
The Blurst of Times: It’s Maybe Never Been Easier to be an Agitator
A lot of us, I think, are always weighing up how far can we push, without potentially risking everything for ourselves. Such that our personal situations are left in a terrible way, in total disaster, while also the change doesn’t even happen. So we’d suffer, and yet it’s for nothing. We’re stuck in the same paradigm, but in a personally even worse situation than we have been before.
But actually, so many of us have safety nets and flexibility we don’t appreciate. Maybe you try to create a union at your company, and get fired. Blast it on twitter and someone else will hire you just because of that.
But for real though, we know we will live several lifetimes, in the sense that even if we tried to optimise for it, there are no lifelong jobs any more, nor careers. So if things will keep changing and resetting anyway, then what do we have to lose by trying to live your truth? If you have to spend some time living with your parents again, or crashing with friends until you reset and try once more, would that really be so bad?
We are such a mass now, those of us who are agitating, that you can start a new journey off the back of having tried and failed to do the thing in one arena.
it shouldn’t be necessary to add this caveat, but in case anyone was about to go off on one and tweet me how insensitive I’m being to dispriviledged people without safety nets, I’m not, I’m only speaking to those of us that do, but maybe aren’t realising it. Those who’ve got nada, shouldn’t have to be on the front lines. Obviously.
Secondly so many of us think that because we don’t lead the most powerful institutions of this current system of society we can’t do anything.
Forget being in a position to have huge ripples because you’re at the helm of a company. Focus on every step of everything you do every day: where you work, how you raise your child, if you have one, how you behave when you walk on the street, how you behave to your colleagues, what you bring up at the team meetings, what you say when your friend says something over drinks. Those are all huge contributors towards shaking up an entire society’s actions, discourse, and values.
Hold the Line
This is where both hope and recruitment come in. Hope in the sense that you do your tiny bit, trusting in the idea that if somebody was able to zoom all the way back out, they would see a mass, a wave, a huge fucking network of people all thinking they’re just doing one small thing, maybe wondering am I even making any difference, while shaking up the entire coin with the force of their collective actions.
You have to hold onto a degree of hope and faith because if this is true, and one starts to break off and say, shit, man, I don’t think it’s working, I don’t think it’s making any difference — then another, and then another still, it all crumbles. So keep going, remember you’re far from alone in trying in whatever little way you’re trying, and just sort of trust that the volume is building and inevitably, it’s gonna reach flipping point.
Trust that, yes, but then also recruit. Look around you, as you go about doing your thing and being the person who calls out kindly, being the person who finds ways to do better. Spot and encourage the people who say: oh, I never thought of that, but it’s really interesting. The ones who are like: yeah, I also want things to be better, but I learned a while ago there’s nothing we can do. Recruit them.
Recruit them and get them to see. It’s going to be hard, yes. Sometimes it will mean so much extra work. Sometimes we’ll be fighting with them and jeopardizing a primary relationship, or spending more time being their social justice coach than whatever else we’re supposed to be to them. But recruit them anyway because it’s worth it.
Because the more that happens, the bigger the collective force. That’s exponential multiplication, baby.
Be Smart, Have Fun With It.
I know I’ve separately talked about trying to keep yourself happy, trying to feed your soul so you can keep going, but this is separate to just making yourself happy in general. This is about making the work as doable and fun as possible.
Make sure that there’ll be dancing at the revolution, march with big music, eke out as much pleasure as you can from trying to do the right thing. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.
For instance, you hear about something terrible in the world, don’t just wallow in the devastation, think through a quick checklist: can I physically or directly help in some way? No, it’s not possible or it’s not the best help. Ok can I fund the people who will be on the ground doing the work? Or can I talk about this loudly enough to maybe other people here who do have money to give or who do have reach to directly impact, will be encouraged to do so? Or do I have to sit this one out entirely because I have my hands full elsewhere? Immerse yourself in the act of doing and use that to cathart the feelings.
Build processes and build checklists for doing the things so that it’s the easiest it can be because remember you are trying to do two massive efforts. Trying to save the world, and at the same time trying to play the game, which is probably already, statistically speaking, harder for you given it’s likely you started asking questions and worked your way to this savior complex through experiencing firsthand the ways in which the system was unjust.
If that’s the case, then it’s likely that you don’t have as many privileges as some other people in society because that’s the corresponding truth to the first one. And so then, in that case, it’s probably already harder for you to even just play the game, even if you wanted to do so selfishly. You have fewer resources, you have fewer tools, less access, and you’ve got to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously.
And then on top of that, you want to change up the whole game, you want to be some sort of anti-capitalist double agent???
That’s a lot to be dealing with. So we’ve got to try to make the best of it, right? You got to use the systems that help you. Use the tools, have gatherings, rely on each other, learn, consume knowledge, treat it like something you’re training for. Read and study and think critically about what you read, and continue to improve your ability to do this amazing, crazy, kind of stupid thing we’re all trying to do. Where we’re trying to kick down the current system and simultaneously design the parts we think belong in a new one. We’re trying to introduce the kind of kindness we want to see, the kind of solidarity, we want to see , the kind of collectivism we want to see, the kind of idealism we want to see, the kind of hope and joy and sharing and Kumbaya.
So yeah, it starts with saying it loud and proud and ends with doing what you can, in the best way you can do it.
Final Word: I’d Do It Anyway
Let’s know that, at some point, someone will be writing this history, someone will be talking about who did what that led to the coin flipping. From when it was just starting to vibrate and wobble, to when it twitched here and there, and then it started to bounce and leap, and every time it seemed like it would finally flip over, but it didn’t, and then when it finally happened, suddenly and then all at once.
And perhaps they’ll write about some of us by name, and perhaps not. Maybe the real heroes of the story come before or after or both and we’ll be the generation skipped over because the meaningful things didn’t happen now, we were just in between.
Even then, they’ll know it couldn’t have happened without us, even if they don’t say it explicitly. That’s the truth, because one way or another, we are part of the chain reaction that is inevitably leading to another flip.
But from what I see, we are in a position to not only flip this society, but to design a much better one intentionally, to really think about the aftermath, to already be building the worldview you want to see. So that it doesn’t just flip into some fucked up place that’s kind of worse, and it’s out of the frying pan into the fire, or it’s the same system only changed inname and superficial form but same old shit. You don’t want that.
And it’s a wonderful amazing thing to be a part of, and whatever about the outcome, I would still rather take my chances and live this way. Caring this much, and obsessing about how to realise that into shakes to the system. This way that makes me cry sometimes. This way that makes me read the news and feel physically heavy with it. That makes me think and think and think again, constantly wondering: is this the nicest thing I could be saying? Am I unfairly dismissing anyone here? Am I unfairly representing anyone here? Am I not being as generous as I could be? How do I make this move part of a better world? How do I make this move part of a better world? How do I try to be my kindest in this situation? Should I have said something or I should have done something else?
Sure, there’s all that going on. But there’s great stuff too. People love me because I love them because I want everyone to be happy. People want me to be happy too and they do lovely things and say lovely things that amount to a wonderful life for me.
People have been there in my darkest times. People I know, people I’ve gotten to meet, who fed me, taught me, showed me around the world. And also people I’ve never met people who wrote books, people who wrote songs, people who made discoveries, people who agitated, people who let their bodies be destroyed so that things would change.
This way of living, allows you to fully love people, and so to more fully experience life.
Anyway, that’s enough on that. I don’t think I need to convince you. If you’re still reading then we’re definitely in the same boat, and we’re pretty much stuck like this, I’d say. Couldn’t stop if we tried.
So might as well be proud of it, keep yourself energized, make sure you’re as happy as you can be, take care of yourself, and try to be rigorous in the audit of your life to see where you can shake things up.