Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Idea #2: Need Less, Redux

I should own almost all of these.
When this post was first written, it was the one that got us to Pay Cash.  It is the one idea that has stuck, that keeps the Occupy Movement top of mind for me most days. It has created a daily reminder of our limits. It is also a daily No Thanks to the banks and their fees and their not-so-great corporate structures that create a lot of not-so-goodness in our world. I like paying cash, a lot.

However, the title... the title haunts me.  Need Less.  I'm not sure that we need less yet. Certainly we don't want any less.

Two things are making me extra thoughtful about this this week. One was a post by my friend Rory where he differentiated between having a social conscience and doing social justice. The other was a conversation with a friend about how useless consuming is to fend off discontent. (I realize by the end of this post that I can't do the second part, so I don't, so probably that will be next week's effort... maybe.)

By Rory's definition, the ideas that I've come up with here are, for all intents and purposes, merely the outcome of a social conscience and while sweet and thought-provoking, they are ultimately useless (I should clarify here, Rory didn't actually say this - I am wondering if I think this after reading what he's written). Social justice on the other hand, is the part that actually matters, that actually ends with something different and new and Socially Good.

The thing is, I've done a bit of the social justice gig - I've put my body where my mouth is, and I've walked the walk and (insert cliche about not just talking here).  And while that was good and right in the moment, and while there is probably somewhere in the great state of New Jersey, something a bit different or new or Socially Good to show for my efforts, there is very little of it.  Now of course, that probably speaks mostly to my own personal  ineffectiveness and not to the global worthiness of pursuing Social Justice. 

And yet. 

And yet, as I think about the great Social Justicers of our time - how much better and different and new is anything? True, black men and women can vote in the United States now, and eat at any lunch counter they want.  But is Dr. King's dream realized? not so much if you read up on prison stats, or poverty stats or any other quality of life statistic. I could go on and on about the Great Fails of Social Justice, just because today, despite the best efforts of so many, the world remains so deeply, truly, appallingly Injust.

This sounds a wee bit cynical eh?

But less than you think - because I think one thing I need less of these days is success.  Less success at getting it right, less success at creating justice, less success at making a difference.  Success for me must remain a distance away I think.  Having a social conscience? it's less pressure. Maybe I'm a cheater - in fact, it's likely.  But the goal for me can not be to Succeed and Change The World.  It remains only to change me a tiny bit. Small acts in a slightly new direction will have to be enough.  I can't help but think that if there are enough of them, they might create some kind of critical mass that looks like Real Change this side of heaven that would be worthwhile.

Needing Less.  Less Success.  That's what I'm thinking about today.  Needing less success makes it easier not to quit oddly enough.

And you? three months after the initial Need Less post, what are you needing less of?

1 comment:

  1. Isn't raising well mannered, caring, polite, all around "good people" a success to you, even if you are doing it one day at a time and the outcome does not stare you in the face...yet? Aren't' you changing and elevating the world by teaching your children the tools they need to sustain themselves and their environment, positively, in the future? Even if it is 'only' two 'good people'. Don't sell yourself short....cynical doesn't look good on you!