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Communities to Change Everything

by John K. Stoner (September 22, 2017)

It seems I keep getting into discussions of whether we should  focus our efforts on self-change or public change, on local action or global action.  Discussions around Rod Drehrer’s THE BENEDICT OPTION are part of this.  

It has been enough to make me  wonder if this may be a false dichotomy.  
I’d like to suggest that we’re making the mistake of confusing whether large scale change will come with how large scale change will come.

The problem with some kinds of local action focus is that they assume that the prospect of large scale change is hopeless, that there is no good reason to expect everything to change, so we will forget that  and put our energy into this little project where we can expect to see some change.  This is, no matter how you try to soften the hard edges, a way of giving up on the world and most of the people in it. And that, understandably, is not calculated to make most of the people in the world feel good about you.   It will do quite the opposite.  

But another foundational attitude is possible.  It is that, in the end, the way large scale change happens is by a million energizing cells of change on the local level.  It all works like the new insight of humanity that the earth is round, not flat.  This did not come about because someone convinced a pope or emperor to say it, and then everybody on down believed it.  It came about because one after another people in their own way discovered it.

Once that happened, there was no pope or emperor who could turn it around.

In a similar way, the whole thing will change after enough people on the local level decide that simple living, nonviolence, and living in community are far closer to the truth of things.  

The reason for choosing “the Benedict Option” is not despair about changing the whole system, but the choice of a method for changing nothing less than the whole system.  

We know that people are slow to change—they resist change.  So we should pay more attention to how and why people do in fact change views and behaviors.  Basically, they do it because of social influence—because of who and what around themselves they believe.    The voices of TV, social media and individuals of daily contact are decisive.  Of these three, the individuals of daily contact are the pod of social influence which should get the most attention of grass roots educators like ourselves who want to effect change, because it is where we have the most access and potential influence. 

The creation of communities of example, education and influence is the way to a sustainable future, because such communities are the most effective engine of macro social change.  

My next blog will take up the process of formation in simple living, nonviolence and community, mentioned above, as critical features of a sustainable way of life, an alternative to the materialism, violence and survival selfishness of the way of the empire.  

Go to  next blog

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