8.16. The Most Important Rule of Social Change

8.16. The Most Important Rule of Social Change

First, we have to come together. And then we have to stay together.

It’s a lot easier said than done—but the secret to creating social change is pretty simple and straightforward.

First, we have to come together.

And then, we have to stay together.

The problem is we constantly find all sorts of reasons not to do those very simple, straightforward things.

We insist on narrow beliefs that exclude the many masses of people who don’t believe exactly as we do.

We get hung up on roles, identities, and insecurities that prevent us from finding common cause with others.

We keep reinventing the wheel, creating new, unnecessary movements and organizations that compete in the same pool of followers and donors as already existing organizations.

We keep resisting, criticizing, and disengaging, because we’re too proud to simply be a member of the rank-and-file, and do our little part.

We trick ourselves into foolish, ineffective strategies, into jumping the gun, into believing that success is just around the corner, instead of doing the necessary research and preparations first.

We let internal divisions, disagreements, jealousies, and power grabs undermine the solidarity of the group.

I’m not saying all of this stuff is always bad.

There’s a fine line between healthy debate and unproductive hostility.

There’s a fine line between holding leaders accountable and unproductive criticism.

There are times, in any group situation, when the right thing to do is to speak out, to criticize, or to protest.

And it does happen often that groups that start out fair and democratic turn into unofficial oligarchies, and start silencing dissent.

Accumulating large numbers of people and coordinating them is hard.

It’s hard to accomplish as a leader, and it’s hard to submit to as a follower—especially when you don’t agree with the direction things are going.

But unless you have a lot of money or power, the only way you can make the world a better place is to be a part of something larger than yourself.

An ordinary person is small, weak, and vulnerable to being crushed by the cruelties of this world.

But ordinary people, with sufficient numbers and coordination, are the most powerful force on this planet.

We can accomplish just about anything—in spite of the selfish desires of our elites.

I can’t tell you which groups to join, whether you should stay or bail, or how to resolve any of these difficulties that inevitable come up during collective action.

But never, ever forget that we’re nothing without each other.

Our greatest strength is our numbers. And yet we waste that potential every single day.

It’s okay to have internal disagreements, and even internal conflicts. But the number one, most important rule of social change is this:

When we’re few and divided, we can’t accomplish anything.

When we’re numerous and united, and we have a smart strategy, we can change the world.

People throw away our numbers and our unity far, far too easily, over the smallest things. And that’s just got to stop.

Because, as the next series of videos will show, we’ve got a lot of important work to do reforming our institutions.


This is the 140th 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.