I was listening to the radio about 4 a.m. this morning ,and I caught the tail end of a discussion with Stephan Schwartz, who studies changes in social consciousness. He outlined eight characteristics held in common by individuals and groups who have successfully brought about positive change in their communities or countries. I am merely paraphrasing these principles, and I hope that in spite of my sleep-fogged brain I correctly noted them. The examples and commentary following each principle are mine based on my understanding of what he said.
1. Individuals working together for change must share a common goal. In other words, everyone in the group must be on the same page with no personal agenda.
2. Individuals working together towards a goal should not be invested in a specific way those goals are achieved. For example, the goal may be to stop global warming, but the members of the group should not insist that this be accomplish in one prescribed way. The workers need to be flexible and able to work with the circumstances as they play out.
3. Individuals working for change need to accept the fact that the goal may not be achieved in their lifetimes. Westerners have a particularly hard time being patient in this way.
4. Individuals working for change need to accept the fact that they may never be acknowledged for their accomplishments. There is no room for big egos.
5. Even though there must be a functional heirarchy and a distribution of tasks according to talent in order to work towards a goal, everyone must share an equality within that group. Not only is it hypocritical to work for social justice when there is racism and gender inequality within the group, it also destroys morale and workers do not put forward their best effort in the cause.
6. Individuals working for change must foresake violence in “word, act, and thought.” It defeats your purpose of making a positive change if you use a club to achieve it.
7. The personal lives of workers must be consistent with their public lives. How many politicians can you name who have disrupted their work and their legacy because of personal behavior? As much as we may think that it should not matter, it in fact does matter.
8. Individuals working for change must have the fundamental understanding that all life is interconnected. When a person suffers, the whole world suffers. If one small change is made, bigger changes result.
As I said, I didn’t hear the whole interview and I may not have gotten these down exactly as presented, but I do think I got the gist of the principles. I think they can serve as workable guidelines for all of us in our attempt to do good in this world. Well, at least I’ll give it a shot.