One of the problems we face even when we want to improve things is that, as human beings, we aren’t fond of change. We tell ourselves we welcome it but mostly that isn’t actually true. The truth about our attitude to change is – we don’t like it and we don’t trust it.
My grandfather, who was born around 1890, was fond of telling stories about when he was a small boy growing up in rural Ireland. One of these stories described how, as a very small boy, he and his brother were walking with an elderly neighbour. Suddenly, they heard a strange noise up ahead.
The boys had no idea what it was but the old man picked them up and threw both of them over the hedge into a field, hissing instructions at them to hide. He jumped in after them and they all hid in the ditch. A few seconds later a man cycled past on a bicycle. As soon as he had gone, the elderly neighbour explained to the boys that all the calamities in the world were being caused by diabolical machines like the one they had just seen.
In many ways we are all like that old man. He was obviously a well intentioned man – after all, frightened as he was he still ‘protected’ the small boys. But just like him, we often find it hard to see how change will improve our lives. We want to stick with the things and the ways we already know because – well, because no matter how bad they are we do know them and that makes us feel safer. Even if it’s not true.
Most of us would like to live in a world where everybody cooperates and tries to get along. But, as this has never really happened before on any sort of a large scale we are frightened of the change. Where we would hope for unity, we are frightened of being forced into uniformity. We can see that others are really like us but then, because we are trained to focus on their ‘otherness’, the strangeness of it all makes us frightened of them and we convince ourselves they are different to us.
In the context of working our human systems as they should be worked as reciprocal systems of oneness – to do this requires a complete change. Because we have never done it before we have nothing to give us confidence about the future and so, because we don’t yet know how to function as a whole we are inclined to cling to our old ways of fragmentation, dominance and aggression.
Change feels dangerous but sometimes not changing is actually more dangerous. After all, if we don’t like cooperating we can always go back to fighting, can’t we?