The trouble with desiring change for the sake of it

In a good post by Doug Reich (ht Not PC) he discusses why the current protests appear to have a great deal of “protesting for the sake of it” rather than having explicit – or testable – desires.

The dangerous thing with such protests is the ability for someone to capture the crowd with a false goal – coming up with a solution that is not good just because it can be sold via an underlying urge of the protesters to do something that makes them look altruistic … or more generally makes them look like they were part of some change.

Unlike Doug, I am not willing to call this a problem of the left – instead, this is what I view as a problem of holism – something that exists among all political groups.  For example, the “right” in New Zealand have their measurable goals – meaningless targets that are not based on anything, targets that give them the satisfaction of thinking that are causing progress (here, here, here).

Before we can really say what change in desirable, we need to understand WHY things happen and HOW changes to organisation and policy have an impact on them.

Doing this is hard – it is costly.  People want the satisfaction that comes from “feeling like you are progressing society” without taking on the cost of actually thinking about the policies – as a result there is an incentive to demand change more often, and with a smaller amount of understand, than is actually “optimal”.  This is obvious, it sounds obvious, people will tell me its obvious – and yet the logical conclusion of actually trying to have a real argument before pushing change is IGNORED by both the left and right.

Now some will say “its not ignored, there are studies/evidence”.  But 99% of the time the studies or evidence that are used are either cherry picked, poor research, or were set up with the conclusion already in mind – forcing change down peoples throats in the face of this type of evidence is just as bad as protesting for no real reason.

When it comes to policy, the best changes we can make are in areas where we have the best understand and information – it just happens that we have the best understanding and information about ourselves.  As a result, as a person our main focus on “change” and “fairness” should be within ourselves and related to our own actions.  What’s that saying … be the change you want to see.

We all want to – and should – fight the inequity around us.  But we can’t do this until we understand why it occurs and how it can be influenced.  However, we can only get to this point by doing the hard yards and playing in the “lab in our minds” (and in conjunction with the research of other on these issues) and discerning what can be called “tendency laws“.

A willingness to work out these tendencies, and implicitly treat other people on the same intellectual level as ourselves, is the way to understand the need for change – not overwrought simplifications of what defines “others”, which appears to the basis of both the 99% protests and the push for a measurable GDP target for NZ.

  • Reminds me of the last election and all the people being interviewed on TV saying they were voting for National because it was time for a change, and not being able to give any other reason….

    • Kimble

      It isnt easy for a non-partisan to say they were sick of Labours arrogant born to rule attitude. I think politeness accounted for a fair chunk of the silence.