Why do you need to change yourself to change the world?
When it comes to transforming society, we can sometimes think problems with injustice and oppression exist “over there”. It’s tempting to think it’s not our problem or responsibility. We can even fall into the trap of believing that if we could simply change governments and shift power around then our problems would be solved.
Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple.
Because we are all products of the society we live in. This means we can, even unintentionally, be the cause of harm to others ourselves. We can find ourselves perpetuating inequalities – often without even realising we’re doing it.
That’s why we all have a responsibility to change ourselves while changing the world. It’s not always easy – but it is a joyful process packed with potential and opportunity.
“If you’ve come here to help me you’re wasting your time. But if your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Lilla Watson, Aboriginal activist
For too long, our society has wrongly believed we can dominate nature, animals and other people in different ways. The results of this inequality are currently manifesting in crises of climate, racism and inequality.
The process of liberating our world from these patterns of domination must be collective. It starts with understanding that when a person oppresses others, the oppressor also suffers. These two experiences of oppressed and oppressor are fundamentally interconnected. Through collective liberation we can and will transform both.
Without addressing how our society has shaped us, our ideas for new ways of doing things are likely to perpetuate the same old problems.
The structures of governments and other institutions are shaped by the forces of the past, meaning they repeat and perpetuate existing inequalities. It’s our role to constantly question and hold those in power to account if we are to transform the world and build a more positive future.
The good news is that through reflection and work on ourselves, we can find healthy ways of being and relating with each other, ourselves and the world around us – all while making changes to build a better society.
It is our responsibility to create an alternative system that cares for people and nature, and guarantees harmony on earth for us and all future generations. But it’s more than a responsibility. It’s an exciting opportunity.
Some questions to consider:
- How would you describe the forces that have shaped the economic system and culture you have grown up in? Do they mean some thrive while others suffer?
- What does your society celebrate and what are its values? How does this show up in your culture – in movies and music for example?
- Can you think of a time you felt out of place in your family, community, or school? Is this linked to something in the culture of your country you would like to change?
- What do healthy values look like to you? How are these different from the values of wider society?