Monday, April 18, 2011

Newton's First Law of Social Change: Balanced Forces

On Friday, I talked about why I believe we can't set out to solve world problems.

As I was thinking about the immeasurable size of these issues, for some sadistic reason, God chose to speak to me through physics. I don't really like physics.

I don't get physics. Or chemistry. Or subtraction. I get nouns and verbs, so it would make sense that God would speak to me through grammar or sentence structure. But no, not today. God spoke to me through Newton's three laws of motion.

Newton's First Law: Balanced Forces

The motion (or lack of motion) on an object will not change so long as the forces on it are balanced.

In other words, something will not move until something moves it and the force that moves it has to overcome the sum of the forces keeping it in place.

These forces include social and cultural norms, political corruption, international and in-country conflict, a lack of human rights, limited natural resources and environmental issues, poor farming and business practices, lack of education, and many others.

These problems are not few and they are not easy to change.
Do you see why I might say that you, individually, cannot set out to solve world problems?

Another force to consider is apathy. We often assume that "not caring" is neutral, but it is not; it is a force against change. I don't think it's fair to rage against all the people in the world who "don't care," and, honestly, it would be hypocritical. The truth is that most people are not so cold as to be unemotional about the death of a child (or many other issues), it is not as simple as "not caring."

So, really, why aren't people part of the force saving that child rather than the part perpetuating his death?

The answer is different for each person. Maybe they are unaware of it, maybe they do not know how to help, maybe they do not trust the organizations in place to combat poverty. It is likely the weight of all the other worries in an individual's life drawing their attention away from the problem of poverty.

Many are simply so discouraged by the size of the problem, that they do nothing.

Do you see why I might say that you, individually, cannot set out to solve world problems?

You will become discouraged before you even begin.

And so you should! The solution to these complex issues, essentially, requires participation every single person on the planet both individually and how they work together.

Don't you see why I might say that you, individually, cannot set out to solve world problems?

The force required is to great for one person. 

It important to recognize the overwhelming size of these issues. When you oversimplify issues like poverty, world hunger, human trafficking, homelessness, war, and the marginalization of women, you don't approach them effectively and you will become discouraged when you do realize how huge they are.

We have to focus on the things that we can do to be part of the force combatting this issues, rather than abstract ideas like "ending hunger," because we cannot end hunger, but we can teach farmers in Rwanda more effective ways of growing coffee. We cannot end human trafficking, but we can rescue this child from prostitution.

We cannot end infant mortality, but we can rescue one child.

By partnering with others to discover the smaller pieces making up impossibly complex issues and by focusing on the immediate, achievable goals in front of you, you can combat the larger issues. 

The important thing is to recognize the hugeness of the problem but to focus on the one thing that you can do and commit to doing it.

We can't save the world but we can do something.

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