Change comes from within. It's a fairly benign phrase often used to remind people that the only way something is going to change is if they start with themselves. Another one of a its ilk is the old adage, The only person you can change is yourself. Both of these phrases are a very simplistic way of how I see the world.
On a personal level, I know that it is impossible for me to try change anyone. I don't even try. My husband is as he is. If I couldn't accept him as he was, with the full knowledge that he may never change, then I had no business marrying him. Same goes for friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc. If good changes happen then that is fantastic, but it is neither expected nor even needed. My husband doesn't even believe people can change, a semantics disagreement we have often because he does believe that people can modify their behavior. In his mind though, a person will always struggle with that behavior modification. If you were an angry person, you will always struggle with being an angry person, even if you no longer act upon these feelings in a negative way. To most people, this does constitute their definition of change. Last night I took one of those quizzes concerning politics. It was actually a rather extensive questionnaire and I ended up left of center, which I already knew. But if I had taken that quiz fifteen years ago, it would have said I was far-right conservative. The way I view the world has changed so drastically since then that there are days when it is hard to recognize that person. I've been keeping a journal since I was eleven. Reading through my old journals is a fascinating journey into those changes. I see my immaturity, the lack of understanding, the fear of "the world" as the Christians viewed it, the judgmental attitudes, and the desire to find some kind of connection to a god that never replied. I ran across one from when I was probably in my late teens where I was obviously grappling with the homosexuality issue. I was just beginning to really try and logic it out and I was running into some serious conundrums. I was appalled by the attitudes of my fellow Christians toward one of my good friends, but was also painfully aware of what the Bible stated clearly. There is an entry about two years later where I finally declare that God made these people this way, homosexuality can be found in nature, and that if being right was more important than loving someone....then I wanted no part of this homophobia that is so pervasive in the church.
I think that this change comes from within mantra is also true on much larger scales too. My co-worker and I got into it the other day about bad cops and police violence. As you know my husband was a former cop and although I didn't know him when he was a police officer, I know him to be a man of integrity and generosity. My co-worker *Leslie believes that all the good cops need to step out of their police headquarters, become whistle blowers, publicly shame their fellow officers, and join ranks with the protesters and social justice warriors. If this happens then the police shootings will stop and the people will at least know the police are on "their side". It will let everyone know who the good ones are. I don't see how a bunch of good people quitting their jobs (because they would have to quit being police officers at that point) is going to change anything. Particularly if you believe that it is the good ones who are protesting. That just leaves all the "bad" ones in power. No, if you want things to change you have to do it from within. Become a cop, move up the ladder. Become a legislator who works to add laws that will provide more training and pay. You want better cops? Stop paying them shit. Cops do need to be accountable and we need laws that make it so, but asking them to betray all the men and women who risk their lives daily just so you can feel better about...whatever...is foolish. It is also very wrong of Leslie to assume that if someone isn't speaking out, then they must be one of the "bad ones". I've written before about how I am not very vocal in public concerning my viewpoints, but it doesn't mean I am for or against something just because I didn't speak up. That's like suggesting that someone is secretly a villain just because they don't come against the things you dislike. In their minds, you're a bad cop because you don't publicly condemn your fellow cops who are fuck ups. It doesn't matter if you swore an oath, there is confidentiality issues, or it has already been dealt with internally by reporting an incident. You don't think cops don't get fired? Sure they do. My husband helped get a fellow officer fired when he wrote a false police report concerning a domestic violence dispute, because he suspected the guy was an illegal immigrant and he hates illegal immigrants. The guy didn't last six months on the force.
Change has to come from within.
I have a friend who wanted to be a social worker and help change the very broken foster care system. He went to school for social work and worked at a group home for a few years. He soon realized that at the level he was at, nothing would change. There was absolutely no way that he, a lowly social worker, would ever be able to change the system. So he went back to school, but this time to get a dual Master's degree in social work and law. He wants to help change things on the only level that the foster care system seems to change, legislation. He graduates in December. I have high hopes that if anyone can do something about this, it could be him. Quitting his job as a social worker in order to protest and write op-ed pieces about how broken the system is would have done nothing.
I think this applies to anything. If you have problems with how your organization is run then you need to position yourself into a place of influence. Complaining about it on social media will do nothing but get you fired. It's okay too to say, you know what, this doesn't matter to me enough to fight it, I'm just going to quit. It's also okay to stand on the outside and say, this company clearly has some unethical practices and we should put some pressure on them to change. But the only people who can exact that change are those within. Go ahead and put pressure on the police. They need to know that people are watching, that they are angry, and that this effects them. But police departments are not one giant unit. They are different from state to state, county to county, city to city. And they aren't going to change just because you stood outside the department shouting, "Hey hey, ho ho. Crooked police have to go!" Every Monday in my city, there is a group of protesters who stand outside the Capitol building, usually get arrested, and they have not done one damn thing to change a god damn thing. Their protests have been impotent at best.
I know there are instances throughout history in which people have managed to change things from the outside. These are the exceptions to the rule and almost all of them ended up positioning themselves into places of authority in order to make those changes. Many of them failed multiple times before they were successful. Obviously the changing cultural and social norms play a large part in how our society views certain things. Religious views tend to hold a lot of sway. America and the world are not the same place they were seventy years ago. Society can also regress.
Pulling this back to a personal level. There isn't a whole lot that I can change in my life. I am not in a position of authority at work, I'm a foster/adoptive parents who can't even get people to do the paperwork we need them to do, and I am not on a single committee or group that would change anything. Nor do I want that. Well, maybe not the work thing because I would totally be okay with a promotion. I think the foster care system needs to change, but I do not want to be a lawyer, politician, or social worker. Instead, I am changing the world for one kid. It's seems like such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it will have to be enough. I'm never going to be one of those people who changes the world and is remembered throughout history. I like to work quietly on the sidelines. Signing petitions, protesting, complaining on social media, posting memes. I just find these things to be a waste of my time. I speak up when necessary. I talk to our kid about prejudice and discrimination. I've deleted friends on social media who say hateful things. I've made it clear to certain relatives that their hateful ways will not be tolerated. With my level of authority, that's all I can do. And it will have to be enough.
And if a time comes where I have to physically step in and do something, to help someone who is being discriminated against, I would do it in a heartbeat. I've done it before. But remember, just because someone isn't out protesting every weekend, it does not mean they are duplicitous nor are they the enemy.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.