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Changing The "System"

People of all kinds routinely blame the "system" for many things. They're absolutely right. It is the system that shapes human behavior. In a system where certain behaviors are rewarded, those behaviors are repeated. And vice versa. We are all Pavlov's dogs in that sense.

That's why awards and honors are instituted. To reward the right kind of behavior even if that's not the expected norm. Awards motivate extraordinary people. What motivates ordinary people? The system.

The "system" is the system that encourages and supports ordinary people to do things that they do in their ordinary life.

The system includes written laws, unwritten laws, stereotypes, hierarchies, economic condition, political condition, geographic and physical condition, infrastructure, feelings, mythology, myths, news, fake news, communication, ... literally everything you can think of forms the system.

Who builds the system?

The naivest answer to this and the most convenient answer for "ordinary" people is to blame politicians for building the system. This is especially true for people who consider themselves apolitical. Sadly their politics is that of selfish avoidance of responsibility. It is not always the fault of intention. People who can't stand oppression and feel like there is so much to do that they cannot be responsible for any of it will unconsciously try to talk about why it is not their responsibility. But often it is selfish laziness.

The better answer is that "we" build the system. Who are we? Anyone who can be involved in building the system builds the system. By commission or by omission.

Who can change the system?

Intuitively, the people who built the system can change the system. True. But not all have equal role in building the system. Neither do all have equal say in changing the system. The people who can change the system the easiest are the people with most agency, privilege, and voice.

Who can not change the system?

People who become a slave to the system, who sacrifice their agency, privilege, and voice to the system instead of questioning it. They absolutely cannot change the system.

Why does the system perpetuate?

Because it is easier to continue the system than to change the system. Anyone who wants to change the system has to find ways of sustaining and motivating themselves. Then they have to question the system and work against it. They have to do this at the peril of losing access to their accustomed rewards from the system. They have to stand up against their acquaintances who enjoy the benefits of the system. They have to shake things up. They have to stand out. They have to put themselves at great risk.

The biggest enemies of people who want to change the system are the people who do not want to change the system. The people who benefit from the system usually do not want the system to change, because of inertia, even if they superficially blame the system for everything.

How to change the system?

If you agree with most of what I said above, the answer to this is straightforward.

Prerequisite: Have a lot of privilege. Have the mental space to take on challenging things. Have help, support, guidance. Have plan B, plan C. Privilege is a gift.

(An aside on privilege. A lot of the privileged folks think that they're not privileged. When they hear the word "privilege" they imagine Mukesh Ambani's inheritance with Narendra Modi's popularity and influence. If you can read this blog post, you're already more privileged than a lot of people on this planet. Reading is a privilege. English is a privilege. Internet is a privilege. Time is a privilege. Sure you might be facing oppression in many ways. But that doesn't take your privileges away. Everyone on the planet faces some or the other oppression, and a lot of them face more oppression than you do. It is a lot easier if you count your privileges and use them.)

The first step is to find loopholes in the system to build yourself sustainable income outside the parts you want to change. This might look like joining pre-existing teams doing what you want to do, finding scholarships or grants, monetizing on a rare skill, etc. Creativity is key here. If you do not have any privilege that you can leverage to achieve this step, then you're out of luck. The best thing you can do is continue being part of the system and silently help those who are trying to change the system.

The next step is to find motivation. There is so much to do and so many generations worth of work. Find problems that you can solve. Find problems solving which will give you satisfaction. Find cracks that make it easier to break the system. Define short-term successes. Think and act with purpose.

Then help others who want to do the same. Amplify voices. Volunteer effort. Offer support. Build friendships. Build capacity. Build community.

Things not to do

When thinking idealistically, it can be easy to develop hatred to those who are doing things differently from you. If people are trying to change the system and they are doing it in a way that you do not approve of, engage in respectful debates with open mind. Sometimes they might be doing it right and you are wrong and you can change your ways. Sometimes vice versa. Sometimes both of you can find useful elements to do things differently. Even when there are unsolvable disagreements, it is easier to think about those as fundamentally hard questions with no one right answer. Do not develop hatred for people who do things differently.

Do not become intellectually arrogant. Intellectual humility is when you keep your intellectual outlook about the world detached from your ego. And you're ready to take a hit on the outlook at any moment. And you're willing to change them. Intellectual arrogance is when you refuse to change your outlook from what you formed in early adulthood.
 

Validity of this strategy

This may not be the only way to do things. But this seems like a reasonable way, to me, at the moment.

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