Most people aren’t bad, merely weak. They will fall in behind anyone who is loud and claims to be righteous – even if they’re not.*
We love to believe that the world is changed by heroes, and, since we aren’t heroes, it’s OK for us to sit around and wait for one to come along, so we can cheer him/her on.
Truth is, that’s not how it works.
And what narrative do we prefer? I call it the Hero Narrative, and it basically comes down to this: Things change on a large scale when someone extraordinary does something dramatic in a moment of crisis. That’s how to address a problem, or so the story goes.
If you don’t agree that this is the dominant narrative of change in our culture, I suggest that you drive to the nearest multiplex theater and see how many of the movies on the marquee have that plot. And not just Jupiter Ascending and American Sniper, but Frozen and Harry Potter, too. The Hero narrative is so pervasive and ubiquitous that it is hard to even see that it is there.
You can find it in history books, too, and that’s where the narrative gets really troubling. We love it so much that we have a tendency (usually unconscious, I believe) to tell even our history in such a way that it fits this story pattern as well.
There is another narrative that is not nearly as popular, but has the added benefit of actually being true. The Movement Narrative says that things change on a large scale when a lot of people move a little bit in the same direction. When we really study Rosa Parks’ story, we find that it fits the Movement Narrative much better than the Hero Narrative.*
I MUCH prefer the Rosa Parks story that shows that she was strong, independent, and willing to stand up for her principles every day. THAT is the example we need to try and follow.
There are several problems with the Hero Narrative. The first is that it teaches us that to solve a problem, you need a hero. Most of us don’t see ourselves as heroes, and don’t know too many people with capes and exo-undies, so it’s a logical conclusion that we are not the ones to make a change.
So we wait for someone to come along and fix the problems, at which point we will do our part: clap.
And even if we can find a hero, what is the next step for addressing a problem in this version of how change happens? We need a crisis.
So again, we wait. And if we find a hero and happen to encounter a crisis, then what is step three?
* I learned the hard way that 95% of the people who claimed to be my friends weren’t really. This is probably always true. They will fall in line with whatever “leader” happens to offer them the best deal. They believe words over actions because it’s easier than thinking for oneself.
At the university where I used to have tenure there were many people who claimed to be my friend, yet when I was being attacked by my head & dean, they simply stood by and did nothing. A few were apologetic about it, a few sided with admin, but most just told themselves that they had nothing to do with it so it was OK to go with the flow.
In the faculty where I got my PhD, everything was fine…. until I had an opinion that differed from the one I was supposed to have (i.e. the one held by those “above” me).
I’m told the best revenge is living well. I don’t believe that revenge ever solves anything, but it *is* nice when you discover that your happiness and success don’t require the approval or help of those who only support you so long as you are making them look better than they are.