Social Alchemy

You’ve probably caught on to the fact that I’m into social justice and all that.  And, of course, I’ve given some thought to how alchemical ideas can be applied to efforts to change the world.

If there is any worthwhile transformation to pursue other than the self, it’s this.

And if you think about it, a society can easily be broken into its three essences.  There’s the physical element, the population and geography and physical infrastructure itself.  Then there’s the soul of a society, its values and customs and deeply ingrained beliefs (even and especially those it doesn’t openly acknowledge).  And finally there’s the spirit of a society, the ways the soul manifests and interacts with everything around and in it, from governmental machinations to artistic output.

What we too often fail to do when trying to achieve change is focus only on one part when they’re all intertwined and all in need of change.  If you want to reduce poverty, even with unlimited resources, you can’t do it just by giving money to the poor.  That doesn’t change the beliefs or systems which cause and underpin economic inequality.  You can’t solve it by waving a wand and changing how people think about what makes a person worthy of support or success, because that doesn’t actually put resources in the hands of those who need it and it doesn’t immediately change policies and systems.  And you can’t just change a bunch of rules to create opportunity for people, because that doesn’t change how people treat others and it doesn’t increase resources.

It has to be a three-pronged approach.  We have to pull the structure apart to see the pieces, yes, and we have to address each element separately, but if we only fix one broken piece and put it back together, the system still won’t work.  We have to fix all the broken pieces.



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