People talk a lot about change but it is meaningless talk. Real change is unmanageable, unwanted, irreconcilable without serious work. But being serious these days is boring. Yet, as black people, we know a lot about change. Change has been our travel companion down the centuries. It never leaves our side.
Change” is a dangerous concept to mess about with. Here is a dictionary definition of “change”: “The act or an instance of making or becoming different”. But ask somebody who says they want “change” and see what happens:
“Hello sir, hello madam, do you want change?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you want change?”
What will they go on to tell you? Things like this:
“I want a new house.”
“I want my mortgage paid.”
“I want a better school for my kids.”
“I want more money.”
“I want a job.”
In other words, they will tend to say things that they have to activate for themselves, but that they want somebody else to provide for them. The question is why have they not enacted fundamental changes in their own lives? What has stopped them? Somebody? Something? Some institutions? When these entities got in the way, what did these people do about it?
I think that change in terms of circumstances is different from the concept of “change” – the act of becoming different. Most people in my experience hate the act of somebody becoming different. I will go further, I simply think that most people hate change – whether it is in somebody else or in their own circumstances.
They will lie until they drop claiming that they want “change”. And mine is not a pessimistic, misanthropic view of human beings to say that they hate change. It is a realistic view. It is one of my deeply held beliefs, burnt out of my own reality, my own life, where I have seen that people would rather “live” – they exist, they do not live – with delusions and fantasies, concocted years ago, rather than acknowledge, accept, live with facts and situations that have changed. People will do anything rather than change themselves to face new facts.
Why is that? Why do people hate change? Because they are scared of it! Because change is unknown. Because people only know what they have done before. Because they don’t have a blueprint for change and for changing. They don’t know what change will bring.
What will change bring? Things that they don’t know how to do and situations that they have never been in before. If you are going to insist on bringing change or on changing something, where will you start? Can you bring change to a community? Can a community change? Can a country change? Can a people change? Can family behaviour and family traits change? Can a person change?
When did you last try to change an individual and what did you try to change them into? A replica of yourself? A replica of your mother? Your father? Your last girlfriend but one? Martin Luther King? Queen Nefertiti? It’s always easier to foist ideas on other people than to try them out on yourself.
Nothing is easier than to cry out for “change”. Nothing is truer than to observe that it is easier said than done. A change is gonna come? When – and why should it?
People do not want change. Go ahead, call me pessimistic, a misanthrope. What people want is for things to return to the last time that they can remember being “OK” or “happy” or “fine” or “well”. Whenever that time was; whatever those emotions meant. What they want when they say they want change, in that abstract way, is for someone to bring back the last period of status quo, during which time they had the upper hand, felt good, felt better than other people they knew.
What is that saying? “Be the change you want to see”? “Become the change you want to be”? Something like that. Was it Gandhi? I can’t remember. I don’t have a head for quotations – only for clichés because clichés are rooted in decades and centuries of human experience and meaning.
People do not have a head for change and they want to get ahead with as little effort as possible. But change, real transformational change, takes an enormous amount of effort. Who likes to do that kind of work in today’s lazy, fantasy-filled world where if you want to change yourself, you can now merely go onto a computer and create an “avatar” – a delusional fantasy figure of who you would like to be, together with your delusional circles of fantasy avatar friends with their own delusional fantasy-filled lives.
Which “life”, then, becomes your own real one? How do you deal with your “real life”, which can in no way match up, live up to, the delusions you crave, create, and fulfill with the clicking of a keyboard?
Transformational change on the self is extremely hard work. Is this why, in my experience, what I see is people who want somebody else to bring them change? Somebody else to hand these people’s own personal change to them on a platter, as if they were being handed tea and cakes.
Then watch as they nibble from somebody else’s hard work, and sip from it, and pick from it. What kind of change is that? A second hand change, like the second hand, false, lives lived on their computers in their virtual, delusional worlds. A handed-out change that somebody else has to keep feeding them with? Watch as they look around, searching, turning up expectantly, waiting, wanting, grasping to be served with the next few morsels of somebody else’s change. A change is not for sharing. Do it yourself.
People want somebody else to do their changing for them because they cannot do the work that transformational change entails. They do not want to make the time for that kind of work because they are too lazy. And they guess that if they look pleading enough, whine enough, maybe some needy politician will get somebody who has already done the hard graft to hand “change” over to them.
People talk about change a lot but it is meaningless talk. Real change is unmanageable, unwanted, irreconcilable without serious work. But being serious these days is boring. The order of the day is to have “fun”. People are even told to have “fun” when they are doing serious work. Being serious for serious sake is something to be avoided, it seems. So how are you supposed to cope with the serious internal conflicts that true transformational change brings, if you are supposed to be having fun but the hard work that is involved is nowhere like having fun?
The inability to deal with changed circumstances, let alone changing circumstances causes the internal conflicts that lead to illnesses, particularly mental illnesses. And what about changing circumstances that are continually in flux? Circumstances rather like the world we live in.
I was watching a film the other day, a somewhat “serious” film about “serious” circumstances, but when it ended I collapsed in laughter. The only thing the film revealed to me, my reading of it, was that the Americans are having a mass mental breakdown. They are going mad.
Unless you have the ability to change, then change is harmful, change is dangerous. When you lose “the way things used to be”, what do you replace it with? When people no longer have what they used to have, what are they supposed to do?
When familiarity is taken away from you – familiar places, familiar faces – how do you navigate your way around the world? When what you have lost is your world, how do you find yourself again? Who do you want to be with? Which community of people, which groups, where, why?
The way things used to be. The loss, the heartache, the pain. Who can talk about creating the new when the heart yearns for the old ways? If you bring change into your life, what does it displace? What does it send packing? And are you prepared to lose that which change replaces?
Confront people with real change and they will run a mile. What if, like a drug addict, they keep turning back to their old familiar, soul sucking ways? And blaming the same familiar blame: “I can’t help myself”? It must be a crippling feeling, surely, to know that you can’t change your ways. To know that you have made yourself a paraplegic of your old habits. That you need crutches made up of old ways and thought processes in order to keep going. Going nowhere, I say.
How do most people encounter change? The answer is forcibly – especially for black people. Our meetings and encounters with change are rarely voluntary. Change is foisted, administered, force-fed on us. We have things imposed on us or taken away from us. Explanations? What explanations! We have the threats: financial, emotional, psychological – adapt or die. We are attacked by change.
We, as black people, know a lot about change. Change has been our travel companion down the centuries. It never leaves our side. We expect it to say “Hello, there” or “See you later” at any moment. We say “Hello” back or we run, only to meet it waiting for us when we stop to regain our breath. We are used to having to change. And we never had avatars or virtual realities.
What we have not done despite all the changes that we have been made to – are made to – experience is to enforce changes on others. Forced other people to change just as they have done to us. It is now time for others to change their ways to adapt to our ways. Have we not had enough of constantly changing down the centuries to adapt to them? We are masters of change. We did it – time and time again – but where did it get us? More demands for more changes.
Enough, I say. Time for stability for us; time for the others to change their ways. If they can. Because when other races cry for change, what they want is the old wrapped up in new packaging. The old in the guise of the new. A route to an old past using new maps. But this time, in this world of changing flux, let others make their own way to where they are going on their own.