Why I Don’t Like Movements

Movements, for the most part, are leaderless masses of energy that are, at best, inefficient and at worst, destructive to the causes they espouse.

Here’s why. Social change movements deliver this message to the government agency(s) whose practices they oppose: We have a problem. You caused it – and you must fix it. The government agencies, besieged by the public’s lack of support for the laws they are sworn to enforce, respond with: Yes, we have a problem. You created it – and you must fix it.

 The current, media grabbing cause du jour is Black Lives Matter. There is no question, at least in my mind, that their concerns are valid, their grievances have gone under attended for far too long, and the people responsible for addressing the problems must step up and actually DO something meaningful to improve the quality of life for all concerned.

But as soon as you define the problem as someone else’s to solve, you have declared yourself a victim. Victims blame others – they don’t take personal responsibility for their part of the situation or doing anything to improve things. Demonstrations are blame-fests, not solutions. Getting your face in a U Tube video doesn’t solve a damn thing. Neither does burning down someone’s store, or going to a City Council meeting to vigorously demand your right to free speech by shouting down others’ rights to theirs.

Those 3 examples (among many others) illustrate some ways that movements diminish support for their purported purposes.

At the same time, government agencies, by and large, are making huge mistakes in the way they address the issue of improving trust. It goes something like this. The agency announces that they are taking steps to safeguard the rights of individuals, to equalize the way people are treated, and to make it “safe” for people to cooperate with, for example, law enforcement. Then they say, “This is what we’re doing. You must trust us.”

Two things are missing. First, government is asking for people to change their attitudes and behaviors based on words. No one has actually done anything to EARN that trust. Second, in almost every instance, the government agency involved has created a list of “things” to work on and improve without any meaningful input from community leaders and residents as to what those “things” and programs ought to comprise.

Gaining trust by telling people to trust you is like telling people to buy your program to help them lose those 50 extra pounds – while you still need to lose 100, but you just read a great book on the subject and now you’re an expert. You only gain trust by becoming trustworthy. You only become trustworthy by your actions. Once you become trustworthy you must leave the decision to trust you in the hands of the people you serve. Neither more laws nor more policies can create trust. Laws can only create the fear of consequences for not complying. There’s a big difference.

Trustworthiness begins when each side recognizes its part in creating the problem – and then works to correct what is within their control to correct. I can never become trustworthy by only pointing out what I don’t like about what you’re doing and never looking in the mirror at my behavior. You demonstrate respect and give people their dignity (both of which lead to becoming trustworthy) when you ask what others need rather than telling them you know what they need without any input from them.

If you’re organizing or leading a movement, look in the mirror at your part of the problem, develop strategies to address them, and make your movement responsible for your part of the solution. Don’t see yourself as a victim.

If you’re leading a government agency, don’t think for a moment that you know what the community you serve really needs, without getting in-depth involvement, input and support from community members.

That’s a place to begin. More to follow.

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