What happens when everything we know changes? Do we keep doing what we know? Do we change? Do we adapt? Do we hunker down? How do we move forward?
These are questions that we have to deal with. Some people deal well with these questions. Others don’t. Institutions generally don’t deal well with change. Institutions exist for their own survival generally. And by this I mean established institutions that have a history of some sort. Institutions that have property. Institutions that have employees and rules and hierarchy. Institutions that have money and some level of power. Institutions that have committees made up of important people who do important things and make important decisions.
Institutions aren’t designed to change, but to maintain the status quo – the power that be.
Yet, here we are, in a changing world.
I recently read an interview that talked about this. It was an interview with Zygmunt Bauman who is a Polish-born sociologist who is skeptical of political change.
He says things I’ve thought for some time. Things like we are living in a time where there is a serious lack of trust. Things like “changing one [political] party for another will not solve the problem.”
There are some things I don’t agree with, but overall, I think he’s pretty on target.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was at the end when he talks about social networks. Here’s a quote:
The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task: you have to create your own community. But communities aren’t created, and you either have one or you don’t. What the social networks can create is a substitute. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish.
And one more:
…real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.
In a sense, I would say this part of the interview is really the sum of everything else he has to say. A question that might arise is whether social media, as Bauman calls it, is the cause or the symptom of the other changes.
A better question might be what do we do with all of this.
Another quote from Bauman:
We are in a period of interregnum, between a time when we had certainties and another when the old ways of doing things no longer work. We don’t know what is going to replace this.
That’s the heart of the matter. And we can see this being played out in many areas of life – government and politics, religion, economics, social media, environmental issues, rights and responsibilities, education, family structure, immigration, etc. Think of all of the political fights that go on. They are fights over how to do things going forward. All too often though, these fights use the same old rhetoric and have the same old ideas coming from the same old “leaders” who have been around for what seems like forever.
The world is changing, but our “leaders” are still trying to hold on to whatever power they have.
Things change – this is one of the few things you can count on in life. How we deal with that change determines a good amount of what the near future will look like for our institutions, our governments, our churches, our families and our education among other things.