Change or Community

Sometimes I feel like there a choice to make between change and community. I don’t mean change ambiguously. I mean changing from good to bad, wrong to right, oppressing to liberating, lazy to productive, hateful to loving. If the community that you are part of does not value making those kinds of changes, then I wonder if they will actually ever come? Maybe I’m just being impatient or maybe I’m being skeptical and not seeing how it is happening gradually. How do individuals in a community continually change for the better if their community as a whole has no intention of doing the same?

Let’s take a hypothetical situation of taking care of the environment. Let’s say there are a few individuals that are passionate about recycling, using less oil and gardening. This is all fine and dandy and maybe at first they will be really hardcore about their convictions. Let’s say this carries on for two years and not a single other person has joined them in their passion for the environment. What happens? Almost entirely those people either leave the community to find someone that is more accepting of their beliefs, or they stay in the community and care less and less about the beliefs they once held. Very rarely will you find someone continue to care about their convictions for very long if no one else around them cares at all. It takes a community to maintain some sort of consistency and drive to grow in the direction of your conviction.

Communities don’t take lightly to one or two people belaboring the same points over and over again. Eventually you are tuned out. Then you have one of three choices to make. You either keep belaboring the point and they keep ignoring you, you leave the community and belabor the same point with other people or you stop belaboring and eventually stop caring about the things you once cared about and start caring about the things the community cares about. Very few people I know have passionate views about something and then can go on living normally while no one else cares to change or listen. In almost all cases, the person burns out or leaves.

So what should happen? I think we need communities that are constantly re-evaluating who they are, what they are doing and what they should be doing. This way, everyone who has a point to belabour has a chance to bring their voice forward and express his views and passions. The community should continue to change and evolve and take on new directions as people grow and have different passions. Embracing change and embracing being challenged lies at the heart of this. We need to build cultures into communities where people aren’t forced to give up on their passions or give up on their friends. We also need to be sensitive to those who won’t give up on certain issues. Maybe they are onto something. Maybe we should keep revisiting what they are saying. There will be lots of truth in the repetition of the same things over and over again. You’ll hear different things the second and third time around.

If communities would embrace change then we wouldn’t have to choose between the two.

2 Comments

  • You’re being impatient and not seeing how it is happening gradually.

    In the realm of environmental issues, it used to be Don’t Litter! and years later we have a community that frowns on litter. We had messages about SMOG! and the air quality has slowly changed for the better, then it was ACID RAIN! and the release of chemicals contributing to acid rain have been vastly reduced.

    Locally, the community once took immense pride in our “Chemical Valley” as a place to take visitors and tourists and show off how wonderful we have it. Now, the industry provided is barely tolerated as a perhaps necessary evil.

    I have some rather clear memories of the first few times watching a negative reaction to local industry by average community members in the late 80s early 90s and it has only continued.

    Communities change, but communities live and change on a scale where 2-3 years is a drop in the bucket.

    As long as the community isn’t actively opposing and silencing the passionate people, then their passion is seeping into the community whether the community knows it or not.

    Passionate people are needed, but they also need to understand how far ahead they might be of real change in the direction they are hoping for.

  • Nathan,

    You nailed it! The main difficulty is something that John mentioned; the rate of change. Everyone in a community changes at their own pace (a snail’s pace none the less). Sarnia has definitely clung on to it’s small town rate of change and it’s overarching umbrella of pessimism. It’s only those few rare folks who can fight through all of that (or maintain their positive attitude) and manage to glean inspiration from elsewhere who can really survive and effectively change their sphere of influence in a good way.

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