Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Power is Yours (3 of 3)

[This is concluding section of guest blogger Megblum's post on meliorism.]

Finally, let us consider how we can embrace meliorism in our lives. In theory, the easiest part of the solution should be simply accepting the belief that human action can improve the course of the world. However, our outlooks are not as simply modified as our choice of breakfast cereal; rather, we must be convinced of a viewpoint’s validity. If we can, at least for the moment, accept the premise that melioristic beliefs are legitimate, we can explore some potential ways to use our newfound faith in human abilities. Once we accept this premise, there are three steps to using meliorism: identifying a problem, organizing, and taking action.

Consider your interests, talents, and concerns in choosing your focus. Perhaps you are concerned about the course of our government, worry about the plight of the needy in your community, or simply wish to improve the lives of those around you. This problem may take an unconventional form: in the movie "Clueless," Beverly Hills princess Cher Horowitz stretched herself with her earth-changing charity work addressing a problem that is all too often ignored in our society: the plight of the unpopular. In the tradition of the great social innovators, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Cher took time out of her busy schedule of shopping, parties, and looking adorable to make over a clumsy, flannel-clad new student. We, like Cher, can almost certainly find an issue that concerns us and address the problem.

The next step in pursuing improvement in the world is organizing. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Though one person can have an impact, the efforts of a concerned group can be much greater than the sum of their individual efforts. This organizing can take place within the framework of an existing group, such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, or a political campaign, or alternatively, may consist of gathering a new and distinct group of people.

The final step is both the simplest and the hardest: taking action. It is at this point that we must, as the endless barrage of Nike ads urge us to “Just do it.” This action need not be complicated. A November 2005 article in People magazine reported on the story of Delonzo Yurcek, a seventeen-year-old former foster child from Kalamazoo, Michigan who was adopted at age eight. Delonzo remembered the embarrassment of arriving at school each year without paper and pencils, and didn’t want other foster children to suffer the same fate. So he, his siblings, and his adoptive parents organized a group called Backpacks for Kids to give foster children who might otherwise go without backpacks filled with school supplies. They raised money with garage sales and Kool-Aid stands, and in their first year alone, they were able to give backpacks to three hundred kids. Delonzo’s simple generosity reflects this solution: he saw a problem, got together a group, and took action.

Now that we know the reasons we do not accept meliorism, the problems of rejecting this outlook, and finally, have looked at how we can embrace meliorism, we can begin to step out into the world with fresh eyes. Our actions can have a positive impact on the world, but only when we act. So the next time you face some problem in society, do something about. As Captain Planet said “the power is yours.”


Anonymous said...



With your powers combined I am Captain Planet!

Captain Planet, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
He's our powers magnified,
And he's fighting on the planet side

Captain Planet, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
Gonna help him put us under,
Bad guys who like to loot and plunder

"You'll pay for this Captain Planet!"

We're the planeteers,
You can be one too!
'Cause saving our planet is the thing to do,
Looting and polluting is not the way,
Hear what Captain Planet has to say:


In case you had been humming it all week, now you can sing it.

Unknown said...

Thank-you for your postings over the past three days.

You might want to consider a blog of your own.

Charlotte said...

Well done, and interesting. I think many advocates for special groups or issues start off with simple projects like the one with the backpacks for foster kids and move gradually toward trying to have an impact on public policy and all the stages are important. The foster kids need the backpacks NOW, but the foster care system also needs to be improved for the long run.
You always need both the immediate problem solvers (warm gloves for cold hands) and the longterm strategists (finding work for those hands to do).
I trust you will do a lot of both in your life and that your eloquence will be put to good use.