Don’t Mimic The Monster: Engage Everyone

You know the state of the world today. We say we’re going to engage the masses, but fail miserably. We want to retain everyone, but they still don’t show up or quickly drop out. We want to connect everyone, but everyone says or acts too busy. We want to empower people, but still they stare at their phones and dance to pop music.

Does that make them bad or wrong? Does that mean they are lost causes? Do we have to leave them behind and simply move ahead? I believe the answer is no.

Freechild Project youth in São Paulo, Brazil.
Youth in São Paulo, Brasil, working to change the world in positive ways.

What’s the Monster?

We’re struggling to defeat a beast.

The monsters of apathy, disregard, disconnection and disgust have led our society around for hundreds of years. They’ve forced friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, and family member against family member.

The way things were are over now and we’re moving ahead. In the past…

  • Education systems routinely left behind students who weren’t learning the ways they were being taught.
  • Social services stopped supporting people who apparently refused to support themselves.
  • Neighbors on the block quit knocking on the door of the old house where nobody ever answered.
  • Customers were seen solely as consumers who simply pick a color and pay on their way out the door.
  • The legal system stopped trying to work with people who resisted their authority and started punishing them instead.
  • Politicians were allowed to make decisions on a hierarchy of financial impact, as if that was the prime and sole relevant determinant of value, purpose and belonging.

 

When we leave behind the young people and adults who don’t come along with our agendas we are simply perpetuating those systems, actions and beliefs.

Sometimes, life situations cause us to become the monster so the monster doesn’t break us. When we settle for engaging some people instead of everyone, everywhere, all the time, we’re mimicking the monster. We might believe we’re not the monster, whether that’s formal systems, “the Man,” or social trends. Unfortunately, we might be by accident.

A lot of us are following Einstein’s formula for insanity by doing the same things we’ve always done and expecting different results. Just because we dress up ugly programs with fancy words and phrases or storm the same meetings and conferences with radical new ideas that have no actions behind them doesn’t mean we’re changing anything.

Arizona youth teaching Freechild's Adam Fletcher how to change the world. Photo by Slingshot Photography.
Arizona youth teaching Freechild’s Adam Fletcher how to change the world. Photo by Slingshot Photography.

Quiz: Are You Mimicking the Monster?

If this bothers you or sounds a little too close to home, I want you – I implore you – to ask yourself:

  • Is my shiny new engagement project just like traditional leadership programs that benefit the few instead of the masses?
  • Does the group of people I’m leading look, talk, act or think just like me?
  • Can my school or organization do more to engage more people, but just not know how to do it?
  • Is there a possibility that I’m causing things to continue existing like they always have instead of creating new possibilities for different realities?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, I want to congratulate you. Its hard getting honest about our inadequacies, and if you said yes to any of those, you’re acknowledging that you or your organization has been inadequate in engaging diverse and broad numbers of people.

If you didn’t answer “yes” to any of those questions, then you can rest securely today knowing you’re doing all right.

Mimicking the monster can be a self-protective measure designed to help you feel better about yourself and the effort you’re putting into changing the world. However, feeling better about yourself isn’t a new thing for the world; and the world needs new ways of being, not more of the same.

The new ways of being can include…

  • INNOVATION: Understanding that “a new world is possible” is a practical, plausible way of planning programs, and without that as a guiding idea we’re likely continuing to harbor the past in the cracks and crevices of our activities, attitudes and outcomes;
  • CAPACITY: Generating bold, assertive and intentional outcomes that satisfy goals without compromising democracy, education, community  or interdependence along the way;
  • UNITY: Creating new ways of doing things that bring people together, build on both/and approaches rather than supporting either/or mentalities, and create new pathways that rebel against dominant culture;
  • ENGAGEMENT: The old way of being focused on seeing people as the passive recipients of decisions made by others for them. The new ways of being compel everyone to see everyone else as an active partner throughout their own lives, to the point of self-exhaustion and community completion, and yet striving forward from there, too.
Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.
Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.

Breaking the Monster

Right now, we’re moving beyond the past and into the future by creating new human technologies that engage vastly new people in dynamic ways to foster broad, bold new outcomes for the future.

We have to create new responses that acknowledge the differences, resistances and separations between “us,” the people trying to catalyze transformation, and “them,” the people who we want to engage in our efforts. If we don’t do that, we’re not actually transforming anything; we’re just giving the old ways of doing things permission to continue and even causing that old way of doing things.

If all of that looks good to you and if you want to move forward, then I would suggest you discover what you can do in communities and schools. If you immediately think of barriers and limitations, I would suggest you check out this and this. If you want to know what’s available for you to DO SOMETHING in these ways, check this out. If you want to talk about it, reply to this or get in touch.

This isn’t inevitable, but it’s also not elusive. The transformation of our society is underway right now, and has been. Let’s move ahead together!

 

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