From Social Protest to Social Change

Social reform does not require social protest, it requires personal change.

What is the most important conclusion we can arrive at from the protest movement which took us all out to the streets during the summer of 2011? The most important conclusion is that we do not need social protest, we need personal change.

Protest has great power to change things if it is a movement of masses who all want the same thing. But in order for the masses to all demand one thing, they first have to be united as one, and to have one demand.

From Social Protest to Social Change

What happened in practice to the protest movement? The great power that lies in the united masses diverged into many small protests with different objectives, none of which had enough power to bring about real change, because each of the small protests was focused on its own objective only.

Those who demanded a solution for the housing problem had to compete with the students’ demand for a reduction in the tuition fee, and those who demanded to reduce the price of the cottage cheese had to compete with those who demanded to bridge the social gaps. And all the groups did not support one another, because each group perceived its own interest to be the flag carrier of the protest.

And what are the results? Indeed, a few things happened: a number of important issues have come to the forefront of the public agenda such as the division of capital and the division of income in the economy, taxation policy, centralization and monopolies. But do you really feel an actual change? It is true that a committee that examines the competitiveness in the food industry has been established, but do you feel like you are paying less in the supermarket?

The reason is that we missed the opportunity of dealing with the main issue of the protest, and missed the real address where the protest should have been directed at. The main issue we need to protest against is the social discourse between us because it is the cause of the rest of the problems, and we need to direct this protest towards ourselves.

The Shared Cause for the Problems

It all begins with an attitude of “each to themselves”, which has become our central norm, and we all pay the price for it. If you search for the cause for every social problem that occupies our minds through this prism, you will always find our self-centeredness and the disregard of the other, and always find that nothing harms us other than the alienated attitude we have towards each other.

Violence in the family, in schools, in the streets, on the roads, in clubs and in sports courts- all due to this norm of “each to themselves”.
Rape, sexual harassment, abuse of any kind- all due to this norm of “each to themselves”.

Destruction of the family structure and disruption in communication between parents and children- all due to this norm of “each to themselves”.
Difficulty in finding a partner and maintaining a good long withstanding relationship with them- all due to this norm of “each to themselves”.
Governmental corruption and religious and ethnic separation- all due to this norm of “each to themselves”.

And who is responsible for the high cost of living, for the failures in education, for the bureaucracy, for the destruction of the environment and the social impermeability, if not this norm of “each to themselves”?

This is a norm that gave birth to the mistaken assumption that each of these phenomena requires separate treatment, and so we have so many authorities, movements and organizations that deal with the prevention of injustice and discrimination. But each of them also focus on the problem on their agenda, and there is no one to unite all the forces in order to fight the cause of them all: the entire society’s lack of tolerance, a society that has put egocentric needs as its central norm.

In this kind of society there is no feeling of solidarity, there is no feeling of responsibility towards anything beyond ourselves and there is no feeling of belonging to the general public, and this is a hothouse that sprouts so much loneliness, and so much depression and anxiety.

The Only Cause that can be Corrected

Social reform will not come from protesting the government, the police or the neighbors. Social reform will be brought about by each one of us taking personal responsibility. Change will begin with a personal commitment that each one of us will take on within ourselves:

  • I am responsible for what I say
  • I am responsible for what I do
  • I am responsible for what I invest in
  • I am responsible for my attitudes
  • I am responsible for my behavior
  • I am responsible for my priorities
  • I am responsible for my emotional responses

And now take the helm of the ship in your own hands, because each one of us is the captain of our lives, and because we will all sail this sea in safety or drown together in deep water.

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