What do we mean by “change”? And who is “we” anyway?

Below,  I reproduce snippets from a recent exchange on FB (April 13 – 15, 2011)

 Will Jamaicans Ever Embrace True Change?
Curtis Campbell 

We feel that the truest change comes about when we simple notice or become aware of change being possible. The awareness that we are change, and are changing and indeed have the ability to effect any kind of change we wish to make occur is the transformation of mind, soul and body we seek.

There are keys though we do well to not miss. Like said before we can only change one’s self and no one else. Others then take note of the shift in behavior and in turn can often become inspired to act on their own shifting. For we all aspire to the better around us – we naturally make the changes hoped for. So the question becomes one of getting the attention of enough people to have a systemic or wholesale shift and many more persons.

Enter the use of photo, video, TV, Tivo and You Tube. The more we help to show examples of the changes we prefer the greater what we seek will become common place to all around us. And like a wild fire it will catch on and expand to places we never before imagined these messages would reach. We’ve got to improve the picturesque reach of our intentions. By having them light the world with hope and desire for more greatness like the Barrack Obama Campaign in 2006-2008 “Change we can believe in”.

It will take time but we can do it for we are JamaiCans!

======================

ME:

Change is a process, and doesn’t require everyone to buy in or to accept the inevitability of such. That’s the cardinal mistake I see in a lot of these discussions i.e. the assumption that all Jamaicans need to get on board. They don’t; you just need enough people with a message that can be amplified and who are willing to do the work of swaying enough others to your side so the balance tips in your favour. Religious missionaries, obnoxious as they can be, have the methodology down pat. Those who want it must become missionaries for the change they want to see.

JC:  I think Nat that your observation rings true IF we are talking about the Change Agents…you really don’t need more than a certain critical mass. I think if you had 100 committed folks we”d be on our way..maybe even less.

But I think the actual change process needs a whole heap more than that. It needs the majority. Not all Jamaicans but it will need a majority or pretty close.

Me:

@ JC – that question can’t really be answered in numbers; it’s probably best answered in terms of resources, strategy (& counter-strategy) and opportunity. 

The question also doesn’t need to be treated a purely theoretical one, or answered only in a speculative sense. Jamaica has undergone significant change over the past two decades even and continues to. Is it the kind of change I would want? No. But it has happened and I, along with many others, have to respond to it, whether resisting its incursion into our lives, creating alternative ways of explaining it, or simply accepting whatever comes as inevitable. When one feels that some forms of change are simply too destructive and is intolerable beyond what one feels that one can live with, one option is to draw brakes and refuse to go on as usual; the other is to negotiate and try to redirect what’s already underway. 

So, ditto Curtis on the importance of cultivating change agents intentionally and deliberately. But first one has to decide who the “enemies” are.

Ironically, the best examples we have of how to engineer change come from folks who are hell bent on relegating entire subsets of Jamaicans to 2nd & 3rd class citizenship. They have been very successful in waging a “war of position” i.e. they have defined the “enemy”, built alternative theories and deployed them through their own channels, created base communities to support their ideas, appropriated power when they could, built various power blocs to deflect criticism and are slowly but surely are reconstructing the society in their image of it. Shirley Richards is the tippy tip of an iceberg that is doing significant damage to democratic process in Jamaica. Silence and absence of a counter-strategy is what makes it possible for her and her folks to win. 

[…]

JC […] I was never convinced that the best idea is to try to change the people in the parliament and find better ones. You might manage a few but the politics that we hate so much at home is all pervading and not limited to Ja.

What makes politics different anywhere is the engagement of citizens who watch over their affairs and effectively communicates through voice and action to the politician that failure to pay attention to their needs will not redound to their political benefit.

I much prefer the plan to educate and galvanize Jamaicans to seize their place in the governance process of their affairs. That is more sustainable and more reliable than looking to find honest people to replace the ones currently sucking us dry. Because in the absence of active citizenry we are back to square one.

[…]

VM: Do you mean citizens should vote ,participate more in pressuire groups etc ?What is being an active citizen in your opinion break it down please.

[…]

ME:

@ Jeneen – Being an active citizen means knowing that government cannot do its job **unless** you do yours as a citizen. That means you have an **obligation and responsibility** to complain, ask questions and insist on getting answers; find the people responsible, engage them directly and holding them accountable for what they do or fail to do; choose a strategy that will work to produce the results necessary on a given issue. Most of all, one needs to see oneself as a *member* of a collective or a group, be willing to work with that collective to make decisions about what to do, and be willing to speaking as such, whether it is as mothers, teachers, residents of xyz, poor people, family of prisoners, whatever i.e. “As a parent, I believe…”. When gov’t fails to act, the first place to look is not at which politician is in charge, but at the people who are directly affected by the lack of action. What they are doing (or not) will give you a clue about what allowed the politician to have made the decision that s/he did. Gov’t and citizens have distinct roles to play. If one falls down on the job, you can bet the whole system will be in disarray.

@ JC – when I gave away that free book last month, I had some amazing as well as depressing conversations with folks about this active citizenship thing. I think I’m going to expand it into a “street corner class”. That Jeneen asked this question makes me realize that it’s a conversation that needs to be had over and over and over again, in as many ways and using as many vehicles as possible. 

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