Social Change

So let the enlightened toil…set to bring the world deliverance.
Bhagavad Gita 3.25

Die GartenlaubeThe Teaching of Social Change is used to balance inherited norms. Institutional evaluation implements norms institutions inherit from their own history, whereas relational evaluation implements norms individuals inherit through relationships. The alternative is to invent and test potential new norms. Such innovation is both risky and expensive. The Teaching of Social Change balances resistance to innovation by convincing us that inherited norms are likely flawed.

This Teaching of Social Change has become easy to sell in the last hundred years as people became educated with a view of history by which modern norms contrast sharply with those of the past. This view has become undeniable as technical progress, if not social progress, has become observable within a single lifespan. Even if it is not clear that current norms are better, living with a sense of flux undermines any sense that current norms are perfect, and that raises hope for improvement. A great deal of evidence is found in economics, in fact, that less innovative societies fair poorly on average.

In previous ages, the Teaching of Social Change came less as a broad perspective on history than as a recognition of the social value of reformers. For example, the Buddha said, “A Buddha is not easily found, he is not born everywhere. Wherever such a sage is born, that race prospers” (Dhammapada 193). Early Christians valued reformers so much that reform was the supposed purpose of the Church: “And he gave some [to be] apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The Gita likewise entreats: “The purity of Yog is to pass beyond the recorded traditions…such as one ranks above ascetics, higher than the wise, beyond achievers of vast deeds!” (Bhagavad Gita 6.44-46).

The Teaching of Social Change is also encoded in the “…to be continued…” part of the messages through which norms are delivered. For example, from Moses: “I will set up a prophet for them from among their brothers like you, and I will put My words into his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him,” (Devarim 18:18), “And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your elders shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And even upon the slaves and the maidservants in those days will I pour out My spirit” (Yoel 3:1-2), from Buddha: “Three leaders have already lived: Kakusandha, Konagamana, and also Buddha Kassapa. The Buddha Supreme, now am I, but after me Mettayya comes.” (Buddhavamsa 27:18-19), from Jesus “There is much more to tell you, but you couldn’t bear it yet. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to understand the truth.” (John 16:12-13), and from Mohammad: “For each period is a Book revealed.” (Quran 13:38)

The preceding is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should) by Christopher Santos-Lang.