“A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.” – Newton’s First Law of Motion
Why is social change so hard? Why are we, thousands of years after Plato dwelled on the ineffectiveness of both too much wealth and too much poverty, still fighting against economic inequality? Why are people still suffering for their beliefs and their lifestyles?
It’s because change, all change, is inherently difficult. As Newton realized, it takes the action of an external force in order for a stable body to be put into motion. The original body is quite satisfied in a stable state, and without that external force it would never be moved.
Those seeking social change are the external force pushing against the stable body of society. It is up to them to apply that energy in order to move society to their desired outcome.
Over the last year in particular, I have heard social change proponents nearing the end of their energy. Why should we have to understand and sympathize with those who voted for Trump, they ask, when those people never try to understand us? More on this particular topic next week, but on a higher level it is all about this concept of change. We are the ones pushing for change, and therefore in order to see that movement occur we must use what methods we can to begin it.Those who are not seeking such change aren’t required to play by the same rules, because they are the body at rest.
To see change happen, you must maintain your energy. As I’ll talk about more in the Multitudes blog, real social change will happen when we are best able to bring others into our fold – people we may disagree with, and people in power. Society is large, and steady. The more force we are able to apply and the more people we can win over to our causes, the more likely we will be to begin pushing society off of its equilibrium and into motion.
Importantly, “force” here doesn’t necessarily mean brute strength or power. In fact, applying that type of force is most likely to cause higher levels of resistance and disagreement (Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). We are most likely to see the results we want to see by winning over hearts and minds to our side of the equation, until our numbers outweigh those accepting of the status quo.
This work is hard. It can feel like we’re not making progress. But giving up is not an option.