A Fire for Change

August 26, 2012 Comments Off on A Fire for Change

I’m actually probably too young and too inexperienced to make this statement, but I’m going to go ahead and do it. I am sick to death of being condescended to by jaded people. When I learn about something that doesn’t work perfectly and I express frustration and a desire to change it, and the people who have been responsible for enlightening me smirk at each other like, “Oh, I remember when I felt that way,” I want to strike them.

The world is big. It’s too big. It’s not possible to actually process most of what goes on every second of every day in every square foot of each of the one hundred ninety-six countries currently on the planet. I understand that it’s a defense mechanism against an overwhelming world to learn to accept what is and navigate your tiny little affairs as best you can within that framework. But that’s why I think that people who have the wherewithal and patience to take on a system—really take it on, not just think and whine about it or write about why it will never be changed—have a duty to do it, and the people who don’t need to get out of their way.

Take my outrage over a certain hospital cafeteria in Minnesota, with no salad bar but a reasonable selection of things like deep-fried reuben bites and bread-filled cheese sticks (yes, really), that only accepts cash (because you just don’t rush out the door to visit an aunt who’s just had a heart attack without making damn good and sure you have plenty of cash for the hospital cafeteria), plus the hospital owns the blocks around it to prevent a competing, sensible business to be set up nearby. Because of this I am seriously considering a master’s in public health. Or take my brainstorms at the Department of Transportation, that exalted temple of good sense and efficiency where I am currently employed, which are promptly shot down even before I manage to get going by people whose tone is very much, “Oh, you cute little thing. If you’d only been around as long as I have you’d see why you should just give up on this.” Or the water use laws in the Southwest, which are prodigiously stupid, barbaric and unconscionable, and which were delivered to me by a park ranger with a smirk like, “Yeah, makes you mad, doesn’t it, kid?”

How dare you ever react to someone’s desire to change something that needs changing with scorn, amusement, or disdain? A fire to change situations, societies, laws, customs—on any scale—is quite possibly the most important mission that anyone can undertake. Sure, a lot of people who express anger or frustration will just adapt and become jaded and bitter—or worse, come to “see the sense” in the system—and probably a lot of what outrages me at first will eventually fade to that place. But there are things that really set me on fire, and by god, I think I could make a difference. No matter what we’re talking about, it has never been except with imagination and energy that it has ever been improved. Someone who displays both should command your deepest respect…because they are trying to do something important that you can’t or won’t do. It might take a newbie or a youngster to see these problems at all; it might take a newbie or a youngster to ignore the amount of painful adjustment that it would take on the part of established system; it might take a certain amount of idealism, even naiveté, to even think that it’s possible to change this or that…and it might not work after all. But that doesn’t mean it’s futile to try. Those are not character flaws. Those are not weaknesses. On the off chance that their initiative actually takes them somewhere—even or especially if your own prolonged study and thought has not—you should SAY YES and get the fuck out of the way.

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