Choosing Between Popularity and Effectiveness

If you are interested in achieving systemic change, you can’t be popular. Most people resist change. Some appreciate the privilege they get from current systems. Some think change is too hard and it should be incremental. Some think the change you want should come after the change they want. No matter what the reason, a desire to implement change means a change agent must choose between popularity and effectiveness.

It’s easier for me to shun popularity in favor of effectiveness and to recognize the need to make the choice. I have never been popular. I will never be popular. I have no interest in being popular. Still, I truly believe meaningful change can only be achieved when the change agent values effectiveness more than popularity.

With many resisting change, and many of them believing incrementalism is actually a path to meaningful change, you can’t produce meaningful change without ruffling feathers. You can’t ruffle feathers and be popular. To achieve long-lasting systemic change, you must be willing to hurt people. You must accept that people will need to be embarrassed for not doing their jobs sufficiently. You must be fine with people losing their jobs.

The biggest reason society rarely changes and that meaningful change never happens near soon enough is most people will not inflict pain to realize change. This is true even though most people who believe they are agents of change understand systems of oppression were established and are maintained by inflicting generations of toxic harm and through brutal oppression and violence.

If we are serious about meaningful change designed to create a more equitable, equal society, more of us need to be willing to fight back. No one wants to inflict pain. No one likes causing harm. But real, relatively immediate change is impossible by placating oppressors. This is true whether the oppression is intensional or accidental.

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