Part One – Discoveries:
In 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the beginning of the most unparalleled system change in America since the authors of the U.S. Constitution finished their work. Martin Luther King was twenty-six years old when the boycott began. He would have just twelve years and four months more to live. Identifying when a system change will occur is an unpredictable set of choices we discover in our history. That means the only thing to do is begin. It is one of the best and maybe the only way to discover what you need to know.
One more example, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment ratified the women’s suffrage movement. It occurred as a product of 54 ballot measures in 30 states. It took decades of work and hundreds of small group efforts to produce national law prohibiting governments from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of sex. After another half-century, the Voting Rights Act (1965) expanded to include the destruction of segregation with the vote’s power. Proof came in 2016, roughly another half-century later.
Tossed up for all to see are the grand assumptions and harmful practices in our world that appear to be malfunctions. We say, “Do something about ending this tyranny or meeting that unmet need.” Democracy is supposed to be one of the best ways to solve a stubborn problem, especially when concerns and events threaten many people’s well-being. The argument to “do something” also includes authoritarian structures such as raising an army, running a business, the oppression of a people, or ending a pandemic.
At the center of both methods circles the question of efficacy. Is delay due to squabbling and bounded rationality, or is it due to the utter fear of error and power? The discoveries can be positive or negative in our efforts to define problems. Most of our findings concern the value of predicting and mitigating an adverse event’s most probable cause, time, and place. Individual circumstances cannot be assigned effectively in this way and lead to the acceptance of the unknowable as something more easily attached to an actuarial table of risk in anticipation of a long list of malfunctions assigned to social practices few natural events. The losses are, therefore, attributed value and paid to victims post-trauma.
It is occurring to us all that more engagement on questions of global impact events demands an entirely new regime. These events are grounded in climate change and the probable recurrence of global pandemic infections in which there may be other connections beyond comprehension. The risk to “all” in a post-trauma evaluation is an insufficient duality. Losses are measured in blood and cash, by good or bad locations, as lucky or unlucky, in life or death, for cultural survival or existence as subsistence. The trauma is further parsed into black and white, rich and poor, knowing and unknowing, educated or not. It divides young or old, able or disabled, using percentages drawn with an unknown, shifting denominator of dissuasions to proportionality. Tossed it up for all to see is the confusion of our times. (See: Crisis Management)
Still, much of our practical solutions come as a post-trauma payment to reduce future risks. Individual households and governments also pay individually with resources drawn by regional needs. A volunteer fire brigade works in one place, while another site requires a professionalized fire-fighting force. Predictable malfunctions reveal investments in first responders and a standard set of institutional providers. In these cases, the assessment of risks and costs and the selection of management protocols establish readiness levels defined by the tools required.
Finding New Pathways
How can the world move steadily and permanently away from post-trauma payouts toward levels of resilience and enduring sustainability? How can the extensive democratic debate be grounded with more power in the equally slow and painstaking science rules? Will it be possible to make science lawfully capable of overriding the procedures used solely to sustain political power? Given these practices, I can accept authoritarian rules to protect us all on the promise of a system change as structured in the Pathways to Malfunction Identification chart below. This is a failing system.
The chart below describes a bubble-up process established as components of local governance composed of “never doubt” groups. As small organizations, they will select a needed change based on self-interests. Examples are quality of life issues by residents or scientific groups to analyze specific problems. The chart also recognizes the formation of interdisciplinary groups skilled at acquiring and injecting capital resources. It anticipates coalition groups charged with aligning policy and program implementation schemes built on trial and error evaluations.
The final system change events in this model (upper right) are as unknown as their seminal beginnings (lower left). They will become known as the initial efforts bubble-up, and shared ideas spread like Whitman’s leaves of grass across the landscape of personal change. The bet is a simple one. People in small groups can pick their experience with a problem, become a never doubt organization, and build toward a system change of great value to themselves with recognized results. Should the malfunction be shared widely and require a more productive agency for an action, the process acquires funds. It encourages never doubt coalition groups to seek higher levels of investment that implies a regional area of operation. Finally, if the malfunction has national effects, the proposed system change will have widespread consensus agreement as it is already in place and well-practiced locally.
The chart above suggests that system changes utilize the energy in the “never doubt” idea. The widespread knowledge of “never doubt” comes from the work and words of anthropologist Margaret Mead regarding cultural transformations.
Whether the change sought is significant, dangerous, beautiful, or hideous, the cause of a difference (major or minor) can be the work of a relatively small group of people with an idea. The factor often left out is the change sought could be that of twelve apostles or twenty violent supremacists. Claims that this is the only way a system change occurs is logical and historically accurate, but it may not be a lasting one in the digital world. Given the flow of ideas, it is possible to conceive of a thousand groups that might identify and act on a common view of change that will alter everything all at once, whereby the source becomes irrelevant. Rosa Parks knew she was not the first person to be insulted on a public bus in Montgomery. She is known for saying, “I was just tired.” But, it became “one and all” who wanted her to be the last person insulted and arrested on a Montgomery bus. Historians can only speculate why the sit-in at the Woolworths in Greensboro, NC, in early 1960 by four untrained college students set the tone for the decade. Sit-ins at segregated lunch counters are well documented throughout the South, but this one began in February and ended in July.
Therefore, the purpose of the chart (above) is one aimed at trust in our better selves. It lays out a belief in discovering malfunctions for two extremely well-known reasons. Power concedes nothing without a demand. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. That was Douglass (1849). He was writing about getting more comfortable with change, even if every turn seems to be for the worse. Sensing the end of misery in the world is a powerful feeling and opens the mind to wonder and beauty.
The failures of power occur in its acquisition and thereafter in the keeping of it. In seeking change, it is logical to examine how the methods of public appropriations becoming private holdings. Here are three widely known global examples:
- Vast personal capital accumulation among a small percentage of people is now common knowledge. That the rate is fantastically beyond a measure of any one person’s productive capacity firmly suggests an economic malfunction worthy of analysis and action.
- Fossil fuels are irreversibly altering the thin layer of gas encompassing the earth. These added gases are causing climate change and several malfunctions.
- The endogenous formation of organic molecules capable of endangering all human life as a virus may be a natural occurrence. The failure of anticipation, prediction, management, and mitigation might be the most serious malfunction of all.
The chart has seven letters (GOS-3P RE) in the upper right corner. I developed it to describe a process for defining big problems like the three listed above. I use them to support the never-doubt group idea with steps that mean something in the immediate sense that can be put to practical use today and share or join with others on a similar path. Before this process can begin operationally, the issue must be continuously well defined and researched. In writing a GOS-3P RE, the “future perfect tense” as a verb form of communication is best.
- Establish goals that address the problem(s) as defined.
- Form objectives that will measure purpose (s) as stated.
- Construct strategies (tactics & activities aiding goal and objective success)
- Select a broad range of possible projects (creatively imagine the future).
- Determine policy (the values and principles that will guide future decisions).
- Decide on priorities (which projects go first? what is the governing policy?).
- Budget the resource implications of the plan (projects, cost? and;
- Evaluate (is their measurable progress?)
The process above can be implemented with the many cautions offered by Alasdair MacIntyre, a Scottish philosopher whose book After Virtue (1981) brings insight to our modern problems. One observation remains especially useful now, “Questions of ends are questions of values, and when it comes to values, reason is silent; conflict between rival values cannot be settled.“
In this sense of change, it seems far more reasonable to focus the world on its malfunctions. They can be found among the powerful, among rivals, even amidst our regular day-to-day lives. People worldwide joyfully engage a problem when confronted with a self-interest grounded in something as complicated as community survival or as simple as improving physical comfort. Before us, the task is to broaden this personalization of our place in the world and broaden it with digital communication tools at our disposal.
Communication action is occurring now, every minute and hour of the day. Will these face to face experiences spin our lives into the shadows of our home-based comforts? Will they be used to share stories of survival more aggressively? Will they help build the knowledge with the action needed to define and solve common problems?
From the mathematical genius of interpreting regression to the mean data to the inspirational voices of political activists, we can likewise fall to the floor in laughter at our ridiculous selves in a barrage of satirical media presentations that seem (and often are) far more accurate than a news broadcast. We are awash with the language for change, but finding a pathway to a real change, please think about the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the sit-in at Woolworths in Greensboro and don’t look back.
Malfunctions are examined in detail in Part Two (here)