Once again, this stage is divided into two parts: suggestions that can facilitate the process when making a change oneself, and suggestions that may encourage others to join the process of evolution and make a change too.


Being strategic: You can change the world, but you can’t change everything in the world. So, choose your battles carefully and don’t pick fights you cannot win. Do not wait to make some grand stand though; small things can make a difference – if everybody does a little, it accumulates. Identify what is within your control and your sphere of influence. It’s surprising, when you actually sit down and think about it, just what each and every one of us can influence day to day.

Choosing evolution: Fighting a system in decline is like poking a dying animal – it is pointless and can make the situation worse. There are more productive steps. We can help existing structures to reform, and/or start developing new structures in parallel with the existing ones. If there is too much resistance to the former, we can rely more on the latter; if the latter is too slow, we can rely more on the former. Have you ever wondered how the Chinese economic miracle took place? They didn’t throw out old institutions but re-adapted them to new goals and introduced ‘direct improvisation’ to the system: the change was centrally directed, but local officials were encouraged to improvise local solutions using local resources. Three elements – partial limits of power, accountability and competition – were brought into the bureaucratic apparatus, in effect turning local leaders into entrepreneurs and CEOs (Ang, 2016). We do not suggest that this should be emulated everywhere, only that evolution can pay off much better than revolution. For example, we don’t need to create a run on all banks (which could bring down the financial system with unforeseeable consequences), but we can selectively shun the worst investment culprits.

Refusing to play the game: None of the above, of course, means that we should generally go along with the system. We can refuse to play the game instead: resisting consumerism and de-investing are just two examples of how to do so. This requires disentangling oneself from the system as much as possible and making steps towards sustainable, self-sufficient living. For example, grow some of your own food, install renewable energy sources and go off the grid if possible, learn repair skills, help to create a local internet service provider (yes, this is possible), avoid investing in the stock-market. All of these may be important because a degradation of the environment and the decline of existing structures are likely to lead to some serious crises. Furthermore, even if you don’t fight the system, the system will fight back when the new starts showing signs of success. If so, protecting and supporting projects and initiatives that are part of the evolution may be necessary. To put it simply, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Balancing personal and social development: Making a difference in the world cannot be a justification for neglecting your own mental and physical well-being and personal development. Disengaging with the social for the sake of the personal is not good, but nor is disregarding the personal. Some sacrifices might be inevitable in both spheres, but neither should be allowed to wither. It is important to balance taking care of yourself (and those close to you) with social engagement, as we need both. This is akin to walking: we rely on one leg while we are taking a step with the other, and then the order is reversed. The same logic can be applied to personal and social development. What it means in practice is to be strategic: use your personal strengths when dealing with social issues, and make time to address your weaknesses and work on yourself.

If you are also interested in personal development that can help you make some evolutionary changes in your own life please visit personalsynthesis.com

With others

Of course, you can hardly change the world on your own. Our strength is in numbers. For change to take hold, it is not sufficient that it happens – it has to be widely accepted (beyond yourself and your circle). In most cases, change will not make a big difference if it is not implemented en masse. So this part is about motivating not just a group or local community to make changes but the general public. Not everybody wants to be an activist to bring about change, but many more are prepared to participate in the process. Winning hearts and minds and having a broad appeal is crucial. This is what makes a real difference and without it the most wonderful projects are unlikely to take root. Three conditions are required for people to engage with change long-term: they need to want to make the change, they need to believe that they can do it, and they need to like it.

Wanting a change: Put simply, what you offer needs to be perceived as better than what exists. Considering that the existing system is cracking, this should not be hard, and many people are already looking elsewhere. There are numerous competing alternatives (some constructive, some regressive and some destructive), but none has a sufficiently broad appeal to take on capitalist ideology on its own. This is why it is important to clarify a common purpose or shared meaning that can appeal to the critical mass and have a unifying character. Some may be suspicious of it because of previous bad experiences (think communism, for example). The system’s propaganda, which glorifies individuality, encourages such suspicions for its own ideological ends. Even a hint of a shared meaning is perceived as a monolithic imposition from above that necessarily limits individual freedom. This is, however, misplaced. A common purpose does not need to be forced, monolithic and unduly restrictive. These outcomes can all be avoided if the purpose is broadly defined so that many can relate to it, and if the purpose refers to the process rather than a fixed goal or an end destination. Here is a suggestion that seems to fulfil these criteria: moving towards greater harmony and development of humankind (as a part of life as a whole). Such a purpose is not fixed but an open-ended process that would make sense to most people (many philosophers, from Plato and Confucius, to Adam Smith and Marx, would approve too). Arguably, it may seem too broad, but it can still serve well as a benchmark against which other things are measured. It is easy to see that, for example, considerable economic inequality, a two-tier education system, or politics mostly based on competition and an ‘us v them’ mentality, do not fit well with this perspective. If accepted, our example can also provide hope and reignite a belief in the future, both of which are necessary for long-term engagement. Capitalism was enthusiastically embraced because, for a while, it provided this belief (at least in material terms). However, faith in capitalist ideology is now waning and it is time to replace it with something more inclusive and more meaningful. If this makes sense to you, check if a change you want to make fits with such a purpose and don’t be shy to talk about the change in that context.

Believing in making the change: the power and tenacity of people when they believe in something can be amazing. Take the Lancashire workers who stood firm against slavery in the mid-19th century, even though it was very much against their own best interests (this was before the current system’s propaganda – that we always and only act in our self-interest – had taken hold). Nowadays, many people are reluctant to engage because they don’t believe that they can make any difference. The best way to convince them that they can is not by arguing, but through examples. This is the most powerful mind changer, as there is no danger of change being perceived as an imposition. When people see that what others can make a difference, they are encouraged and motivated to try to do something that can make a difference too. If you have nothing to show right now, you can point at other people who are doing visibly good work, and the growing number of projects and initiatives that are already making good strides. There are many such examples in these materials, demonstrating that we can.

If you are also interested in the larger picture – how these social processes fit within the evolution and meaning of life as a whole, please visit thesynthesis.info

Liking the change: belief in the future and in our own powers may be enough to engage with change, but is rarely sufficient to sustain it. Understandably, many people like the comfort that the existing system can still offer and are unwilling or too scared to rock the boat. This conformism leads people to fall back into the old patterns after the initial excitement that making a change creates. To sustain engagement, the new needs to be liked as much and possibly more than the old. Considering that changes require effort, what is it that can be liked? Well, there are the senses of belonging, justice and fairness, security, fun, the freedom to choose, exercising curiosity and creativity, people feeling good about themselves and that they matter, the sense of achievement, even love. Conversely, people don’t like it when somebody tries to force something upon them, even if it is for ‘their own good’. This just alienates them (as many activists learned in the past). Rather than pushing, a gentle nudge until the tipping point is reached is usually better. Let’s take one example: charging 5p for a plastic bag in UK supermarkets was a resounding success in reducing disposable plastic. What was decisive in this instance was preserving a choice (you could bring your own bags or pay the charge) and that the money was largely symbolic and not meant to hurt (there was virtually nothing else that could be bought for 5p). However, 5p was sufficient to serve well as a public reminder. Also, bringing one’s own bags makes people feel good because they are doing something both for themselves (saving money) and for the environment. Other things that may work are: making good practices fashionable (and bad ones unfashionable); making a project an adventure by letting people exercise their choice and creativity; having some fun (a good example of this is a new board game ‘Rise up’, created by the Toolbox for Education and Social Action); and last, but not least, making an event an opportunity to socialise, nurturing that all-important sense of togetherness.

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