Step 9: We Need to Reform Our Institutions

Step 9: We Need to Reform Our Institutions

We’re going to have to figure out how to get our institutions to work for us, instead of the political and economic elites they currently work for.

The thing that needs to be our main focus is reforming our institutions.

A lot of people want to do that, of course. But I think there are a few big mistakes in how we tend to go about it.

First, we make it about ideologies, instead of institutions.

Ideologies aren’t bad, in and of themselves. But when they become the center of attention, instead of the main goal of making our institutions work better, that’s a problem.

I have my own values and beliefs, same as anyone else. But the main thing I want is for our governments, businesses, schools, media outlets, and other institutions to work better. And I think we can use all of our sciences, philosophies, political ideologies, and religions to inform that process.

Second, we insist on being stubborn and uncompromising, in how we negotiate our differences.

We imagine the one who clings the hardest, who yells the loudest, and insists only on total victory is the most admirable, the one we should listen to and model our own behavior after, over the more reasonable and open-minded voices.

Again, sticking to your guns isn’t bad in and of itself. It’s tough to figure out when to stand firm, and when to be accommodating. Sometimes standing firm is the right thing to do.

But lately it’s as if any hint of accommodation, or open-mindedness, or engagement with other ideas is taken as weakness, or surrender, or evidence that you don’t believe as strongly as you should.

I believe what I believe very passionately. But I don’t believe that means I have to be a tough cop. I can be principled, and still be accommodating. I can still engage with people who don’t believe as I do, without selling out. I can have my beliefs, without being forced to take a hard line on everything.

Finally, there’s the way we actually try to go about reforming institutions.

There are some valuable lessons we can learn from past movements that succeeded at reforming institutions. But we also have to take into account that those victories happened in a different time, in a different context.

We have to do more than just mechanically copy their moves, and hope it works out.

There are more than enough people frustrated with our institutions right now. There’s no doubt about that. But the winning moves today just aren’t going to be the same as they were decades ago.

Ultimately, I think the American people are going to have to recognize that this two-party system with deep ideological divides doesn’t serve them.

I think we’re going to have to develop more creative, globally coordinated solutions to our problems, because so many of our problems can’t be isolated or confined to one set of borders.

We the people of the world don’t agree on everything. But we can agree that there are a lot of problems being caused by the nations of the world, and the global economy. We’re going to have to figure out how to get those institutions to work for us, instead of political and economic elites they currently work for.

That’s going to be the big challenge of our time.


This is the 10th 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.