By Kevin Wilson
Change is hard.
As a species, humans are greatly resistant to any sort of permanent, lasting, and meaningful change. Even as technology marches on and society evolves to survive in a world where we can share dick pics with strangers on the other side of the planet in an instant, we still long for the good old days when women were women, men were men, and sheep were scared.
Nonetheless, America has reached a point where some sort of change feels inevitable. The current parties in power have just about worn out their welcome in the eyes of much of the public. The government either does too much, or not enough. We’re either a society hurtling off the cliff of political correctness towards dystopia, or we’re already a dystopia built on racism and sexism and whatever other isms you want to throw in there.
Everyone seems to agree that some sort of change needs to happen, but nobody agrees on what it should be. And, more importantly, nobody seems to want to make it happen.
Oh sure, there’s plenty of talk online about how we must Do Something. There are all sorts of petitions and protests, urging folks to get out and make the bastards in power Do Something. The problem is, it’s all masturbation. Protesting and shouting into your social media echo chambers might feel good, but they accomplish nothing and leave behind a sticky mess.
If you want real change, you’re gonna have to do it yourself. And that’s why I’m writing this handy DIY Guide to Real Change.
The first step is to organize. Find likeminded individuals who more or less believe what you believe and start talking. Find out who’s good at what. Ideally, you’ll need someone who can handle money (more on that later), a handful of skilled writers and artists, and at least one person to act as a group spokesperson/figurehead. Having someone act as the public face of the group is important. Public perception is important, as is making effective use of the media. Having a single, unified voice, preferably coming out of a single mouth, makes that a lot easier.
Once you’ve got your basic table of organization laid down, the next step is to codify your ideology. This is a big reason why so many movements tend to flounder once they reach a certain size. If you can’t decisively say what you believe in and what you don’t, all sorts of vile shit can be done in your name and it becomes a lot harder to control your image. This, I would wager, is one of Black Lives Matter’s biggest weaknesses. While the core concept might be perfectly acceptable to a large portion of the population, fringe elements have made it easy for their enemies to discredit them. If I had a nickel for every video or meme depicting someone claiming to be from BLM doing something shitty that was used against the whole movement, I could probably buy a nice car.
Having a clearly defined ideology makes it easier to separate your group from extremist elements. Stating your mission, how you plan to accomplish it, and what you are and aren’t willing to do in pursuit of success is key. Also, remember that you will be tried in the court of public perception almost as soon as you start to gain any sort of momentum. Your public goals need to be appealing to as broad a cross section of the population as possible, without overly diluting your message. With that in mind, the importance of having at least a few skilled writers on hand cannot be overstated.
Speaking of goals, you’ll need to set some. They’ll need to be realistic and attainable, and you’d do well to have both short and long term ones. Public goals are important not only for your organization’s success, but also in winning the propaganda war. Think too small and no one is going to take you seriously. Too grandiose, and you’ll be accused of having your head in the clouds. Know your group, know your limits. Don’t be afraid to test yourselves, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Once you have your organization, your mission, and your goals, take some time to research past successful groups. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t let your distaste for a source stop you from using their methodology. You can learn as much from the Tea Party as you can the Civil Rights Movement, and the Tea Party is arguably far more relevant in today’s political and social climate.
Now it’s time to start spreading the word. Social media is your best friend in this venture. It lets you get the word out, and gives you far more control over your public image than traditional media. That said, don’t ignore the older methods. Most newspapers have a letters to the editor section, and while newspapers are a dying breed, they still have reach. Also, reach out to other groups with similar goals. Many larger groups are willing to work with smaller ones, and alliances with smaller groups can be crucial to spreading your message.
Don’t be afraid to spend money trying to accomplish your goals. Facebook especially likes to make you pay to reach larger audiences. Having someone on hand who is good with money is crucial at this stage. Unless you can find a wealthy benefactor, funds are likely going to be tight at first. Once you reach a certain size, fundraising becomes a little less like pulling teeth, but you still have to keep a tight lid on your spending if you want to remain solvent.
And make no mistake, fundraising will be crucial to success. Once you reach a certain size and have amassed enough influence, it’s time to start making real change, and that means playing politics. Because, no matter how good your message is, how much you really care, change does not come from Facebook. It doesn’t come from protests and marches. It comes from power, and everything you’ve done up to this point merely gets you in the door to the halls of power.
Generally speaking, politicians only care about one thing: winning the next election. To do that, they need votes. Keeping their constituents happy is important, but even more important is raising money. Rare is the politician who hasn’t sold their soul to one special interest group or another for a campaign donation. Find some you can work with and get them on your side. You don’t last long in a legislature, state or otherwise, if you can’t please your backers.
If you’re willing to play the long game, start running your own candidates in elections. Start at the local level and choose your battles wisely. Identify districts where you have the greatest chances of success and throw as much as you can spare into the fight. If you’ve played the public perception game well enough, it won’t be hard to build goodwill with the people. Start small and use that success to build up to greater things. If you play your cards right and if you’re very, very lucky, you just might get the chance to bring about that change you wanted.
So there it is, folks. If all that sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. I’ve said it twice: change is hard. If you want to make a real difference, you need to be willing to work for it. If you’re not willing to work for it, then you’ll forever be at the mercy of the people who are.