Theory of the critical mass* The creation of social change, the introduction of something new into society, takes time and energy, and the form this takes is the form of a wave – growing slowly, building up energy and movement, until the change simply cannot be stopped. We all dream of peace, many of us work tirelessly for peace. So where is the peace? How do we create this critical mass, this wave that cannot be stopped? We have seen it happen so often in the world: Ghandi’s work in India, the fall of the Berlin wall, the stopping of the Vietnam War, the end of apartheid in South Africa…
There are thousands of drops going on at this very moment in the Middle East, yet still the wave has not been created. In Izhak Rabin’s time it was almost there – almost crested – but when he was killed, the wave settled back and disappeared, and has not yet gathered again.
Each person, each organization working for peace is working from a place of specialty, what I am good at, what I believe in – whether it is dialog, children’s camps, internet work, teaching compassionate listening, political work, personal healing, creating awareness of a specific aspect of prejudice etc.
If you believe in what you are doing, have the right intention to your work, each one of these – the drops of water – is an important piece of the puzzle. (Intention is an important aspect – without it the work has no meaning, as we can see in the many so-called peace agreements, such as Netanyahu stopping settlements for ten months while already announcing that after ten months he promises to begin again…)
So how do we create the wave? How do we gather our work together and create something bigger than ourselves?
One of the challenges I have found after many years work is the difficulty of working together. When each person or organization has a special niche in the work, and use all their energy just doing that work, they have very little energy left for connecting to others.
There are also many situations in which groups disagree with one another and refuse to connect because of differences in the particular method or social emphasis, and are simply afraid to lose their own supporters if they connect to an organization with a different emphasis (perhaps they don’t want political or religious affiliation, for instance)
So in order to work together we have to find a way to incorporate the togetherness as part of the specific work each one does, so that the togetherness is inherent in the work and not something new. And at the same time we must find a way to respect the individuality of each group and create a situation where affiliation is not seen as a merger, or as agreement about everything. Not easy!
I have no answers (if I did, it would already be out there!), but I have had some thoughts lately about this that I would like to share in hopes that this will trigger ideas in others, eventually creating the way to gather the wave.
What level do you work on at the moment? Do you network? Do you teach? Do you fundraise? Do you heal? Each one of us works on at least one level – physical, spiritual, inner, outer, higher, deeper. And yet, we are complex creatures, and the world we live in is a complex world. We live on many levels. Deep personal inner levels, levels where we connect to the world physically, levels of spiritual connection, we do not live on one level or even two. (After all, according to Judaism, we are created in God’s image – and God is found everywhere, at all levels!) So just as we live our lives on many levels so too we should look at our work in the world as a complex entity or path or creation. Ghandi said Be the change you want. Since we exist on multiple levels so too the change must be on multiple levels.
So what does that mean? For me it means to look at the levels you are working on right now, and ask yourself what is the next level of your work. Where is this work to go if it is to expand and become even fuller? If you work with children should you work with their families too? If you teach healing should you now teach others to teach so you can go to the next level of work? If you are a small organization should you grow bigger or connect to others? If you are working spiritually where do you touch ground and bring practicality? If you are helping people build houses how can you help them make sure the houses won’t fall again?
This may mean simply expanding your vision, it may mean taking a risk to do something you are not sure you can do, this may mean finding teachers or partners. But it must be done.
This is one part of creating the wave.
What do you see?
* I recommend this wonderful teaching tool by the Traubmans: http://traubman.igc.org/changechartsall.pdf