One of the many ways we might “slice and dice” humanity is to describe the wide gulf between people who understand the importance of systems and those who see the world entirely as a creation of individual actors and actions.
I don’t want to minimize the importance of leadership, because ultimately it is leaders and those they persuade who move the culture, but folklore to the contrary, that kid who stuck his finger in the dyke did not singlehandedly avert the deluge.
I understand the temptation to attribute social ills to personal failures. Saying “that guy is poor because he’s lazy,” is a much more satisfying analysis than one that tries to quantify the role(s) played by an inferior education or economic shifts that made his skills obsolete or bankrupted his employer–let alone public policies with unintended consequences.
There are two possible responses to a recognition of the immense influence of culture and social systems: you can shrug your shoulders, accept the brutal truth that you cannot change the world or even a small portion thereof, and spend your days cultivating your own garden (a la Candide); or you can join with others working for systemic changes, recognizing that life offers no guarantees. If and when change comes, its form will be unpredictable, its trajectory uncertain and its emergence maddeningly slow.
A lot of us struggle with that reality, and that choice, every day.
My garden is pretty appealing….and the magnitude of the cultural change we need is pretty daunting.
Withdrawal is tempting.