I was very confused, back in 08 to hear the mindless chants of “hope, change.” They sounded so gleeful. Also hope and change are not two things you normally put together.
Yes, yes, I KNOW what they thought they meant. In the media narrative, the GWB times were hopeless and with no jobs and (and we hadn’t seen anything yet!) so change would bring us hope.
They were out of their rocking minds, obviously.
Look, I’m a libertarian. That means, compared to our current system of having the government play helicopter parent to you from cradle to grave, I advocate change. DRASTIC change. To get where I want to be, there would be massive dislocation of money and human resources. Think of the unemployment crisis as bureaucrats without number got run off their jobs. (Okay, now wipe that grin off your face.) Think of all the genuine scientific research that would have to find a new way to fund itself. Think of the children. No, really, think of the children. I think what we have for a department of Children Services is inefficient, stupid and possibly harmful, but we’d still need to retool and find another way to perform the job of making sure most kids are mostly safe, without giving it all to the government. That means some truly horrible things would happen on the way there. (Whether they’d be better or worse than the horrible things happening now is something else again.) Ditto when it comes to schooling. Most of our schools are rather inefficient day cares, but without even that, some kids would fall through the cracks, until local government steps up. (Yes, for those following along at home, libertarians aren’t necessarily AGAINST government, they just believe on keeping most things small, local, and as close to individual as possible. The guys who want no government? That’s Anarchists. And no, Somalia is not a Libertarian society. Or an anarchist one. Somalia is a tribal war with borders. Its dysfunction has much to do with where and what it is, not with the system of its government, which is “totalitarians trained in left wing politics in western universities trying to speak insanity to tribes who are trying to stay alive.” I swear to fricken bob the next idiot who tells me “Libertarianism would cause Somalia” gets hit on the head with the nearest object. Do these people swallow whole whatever some progressive twit says, without the slightest effort at verification? Without a modicum of thought.)
The point I’m trying to make is that change hurts. It always hurts, whether it’s an individual or a society; whether it’s ULTIMATELY change for better or for worse. Whom it hurts and how much is directly proportional to what systems are being changed and how many people they involve.
Truly massive technological change that affects the whole human race takes millenia to process through. Some anthropologists, seriously, think we’re not through processing all the consequences of the switch between hunting-gathering and agriculture. It’s undeniable (no, seriously) that it was good for the species as a whole, over time. I mean, our sheer numbers and populations prove that. But it was neither painless nor cost free, and right when it happened it was wrenching, the wrench being recorded in our oldest legends and racial memories. War between those who had settled and those who hadn’t, changes in ways of life (this idea of working every day, instead of when the meat runs out is still painful and still hasn’t worked itself into the way the species as a whole works.)
There is considerable and plausible evidence we’re still too close to the industrial revolution and the French revolution to process it.
At the rate we’re accelerating the changes to our own environment, it is quite possible we won’t (as a whole) be done processing the change to mass production before small-run individual production becomes the norm.
Which brings us to: the most normal result of change is the opposite of hope: it is destruction, blood, often the burning of a generation’s patrimony, as what they learned and what they’ve spent a lifetime becoming no longer has any application to the new reality.
Take the twentieth century. (Please. Almost as bad as the fourteenth.) It was a time of massive, unrelenting change. And we have the piles of corpses to prove it.
But as an individual — even as president of the US — you really don’t get to “create change.” Every time I hear “be the change you want to see” or its equivalent, I want to beat someone over the head with a wet sock until I brain them. (It’s slow and satisfying.)
I think I know what they’re trying to say, but that is not what they’re saying. I think what they’re trying to say is that you can only change yourself. And that’s correct. What they’re actually saying is something on a par with “be a thought leader.” I.e. be someone who changes society around you by just being a certain way.
Does that ever happen. Oh, sure. Most founders of major religions, some kings and rulers, a few other powerful men and women changed society at least for a time (mostly for the bad, taken in whole, though of course there are exceptions.)
But for most human beings, modeling the change you want to see in society can get you either marginalized or killed, depending on how severe that change is. (Major religious figures aren’t exempt on either, btw.)
Is it worth it to buck society? Sometimes. It also sometimes — if you judge the moment right — joins with a lot of other people to create a preference cascade. If I didn’t believe in that, I’d not be writing this.
On the other hand, that’s in matters of principle, and urgent matters. If the change you want to see is being allowed to wear white after labor day, is it really worth it getting strange stares, or having to continually clean your white clothes that got muddy and dirty in winter? Or if the matter you’re bucking, if you fail will destroy you and if you win will… make no big difference to most people?
This is when the “change” needed is mostly internal, in yourself.
It still hurts. It hurts like hell. But without changing yourself, you’ll never achieve anything.
Look, I remember — and I found while unpacking, a sheaf of these — when I sent out for magazines, ranging from fanzines to Analog, and read them to know what I should be aiming for. My most immediate reaction was “OMG, these are nothing like what I write.” And by that I don’t mean political bend. I mean I hadn’t figured out writing in scenes, yet, so what I wrote bore a strange resemblance to “disembodied ramblings from a world you never saw.”
You’d think changing that wouldn’t hurt, right?
Bah. You’d be wrong. Changing that involved changing my habits of mind, the way of working I’d gotten used to, “breaking” the way I thought of story, and endless hours of practicing the new way, till it stopped “hurting.” It felt a little like going insane.
And what’s more, everytime I “tool up” I go through this again. Having identified something I do wrong in writing, I have to “break my head” and then fall into a new pattern.
This involves a lot of work (A LOT OF WORK) and forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do. 90% of the people who approach me as fledgelings (or as colleagues seeking help for stalled careers) and to whom I tell stuff like “Okay, so you need to write in a different world, or come up with three new worlds, then write proposals and–” OR “You need to write four books a year” or “You need to learn to plot” or “you need to learn characters” go away saying “BUT I CAN’T DO THAT.” Some of my favorite people in the world do that rather than try it. I remember a friend telling me she couldn’t possibly write four new proposals in a year, when I’d just written 17 over summer. (2003, career stopped, and a bitch of a year all around.)
It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable, it’s a lot of work, but if where you want to go is worth it, you do it.
And almost always, unless you were born to a comfortable fortune and your life is pottering ONLY with what pleases you, you need to change to get ANYWHERE, much less where you want to go. You need to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to do things that feel unnatural or that you despise.
This is whether or not the world is “right”. A lot of the way I had to learn to write wasn’t “right” for selling. It was the more literary way that shorts had been going. In fact, I later had to unlearn some of it, to sell more in novels. BUT it was the way it was and if I wanted to publish in shorts (heaven knows why) I had to learn it.
And because we’re extra special lucky, we do live in interesting times. Times of intense change. That means we need to work hard as hell to stay standing in the changing maelstrom, and to hopefully achieve something, anything, in the time we’re given.
A lot of this involves changing ourselves: the way we work, and mostly the way we think.
My entire field is turning upside down and inside out, and I NEED to figure out new ways of working, new ways of thinking.
I’m not alone in my field. Some of you might not have noticed the change in your profession but I guarantee it’s coming for you.
Those new ways of thinking, those clever tricks to stay afloat, are nasty. They break your comfortable idea of how things ought to work and be.
But no one asked our opinion. And internal change is our only chance at hope.