1.6. How We React Differently to Rapid Social Change

It isn’t just about your psychology. It’s about your place in society.

When we feel like things are moving too fast, we can react in one of two ways.

We can try to put on the brakes and slow things down. Or we can try to speed up, and get out in front of it.

You can see these two tendencies reflected in the varying responses of conservatives and liberals to our current situation.

Things really are moving quickly. The population of the United States—and the world—has just about doubled over the past 50 to 60 years.

Our new information and communication technologies have helped make the world orders of magnitude more interconnected than it was before.

It’s a collision of people, new technologies, and social change not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

But I think it’s really, really important to understand that the reaction you have to all this change—try to slow it down, or try to speed yourself up—isn’t just about your psychology. It’s about your place in society.

Because all this change isn’t evenly spread out. Some groups are more or less affected than others. Some groups are affected differently than others.

Cities, for example, are faster paced than rural areas. Cities are more plugged into this globalizing world than rural areas. Cities are seeing jobs coming in, while rural places are seeing jobs moving out. Doesn’t it make sense that more people in urban areas want to get out in front of this change, while more people in rural areas want to slow it down?

Doesn’t it make sense that young people, who expect to live in this world for another half century or more, want to get out in front of the change, while older folks, who have already lived a certain way for a half century or more, want to slow it down?

Doesn’t it make sense that women and people of color, who equate this change with greater rights and opportunities, would be more likely to embrace it than the people who equate it with diminishing opportunities and diminishing influence?

When change moves faster than we feel capable of moving, it makes us feel powerless. It may seem like liberals and conservatives have totally different ideas and values. But really they’re feeling and reacting to the same thing.

Here’s the thing about all this change, though: it isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

There’s no way to stop it yet, because it’s a truly global thing that’s happening. No amount of laws and policies in one little country can make it go away.

No matter how isolated or insulated or removed you are from it, the rapid changes are going to keep chugging along.

So what we have to do is get out in front of it, so that the people of the world—all the people of the world, whether you live in Algeria or Alabama—will benefit from it.

Because if we don’t, then governments, corporations, and other institutions are going to be the ones to determine how this change unfolds. And we the people of the world might not like what they want to do with it.

 

This is the 18th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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