30 August 2015

Committed people and Korman's Third Law

So there's a little aphorism I hate, attributed to Margaret Mead.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

On the face of it, it's a stirring message of hope. If you're like me, you picture Martin Luther King sitting around a kitchen table with Bayard Rustin and Ralph Abernathy and James Orange and Frederick Douglas Reese.

But looking at it closely, the aphorism rankles. It's vanguardist, almost anti-democratic: never mind most people and mass movements, it's the committed few who matter. It's Green Lanternism: will matters above all. And the romanticization of “changing the world”, which one sees a lot of in the tech industry, is not entirely wholesome. Change is inevitable and not all changes are good; I want to look to what will make a better world.

Plus, there's no evidence that Mead ever said it.

Plus — and this to my mind is most damning — thinking about who might draw inspiration from the thought of a small vanguard changing the world through he force of their will, and remembering Rhett's Law, I feel moved to offer Korman's Third Law:

If it makes a funny “Nazi-spiration” meme image, it's questionable motivational advice.


You cannot make this stuff up. Irony-impaired former Kent State student Kaitlin Bennett tweeted this:


Unknown said...

Granted, but... on the one hand I don't think I've ever seen motivational advice I *didn't* find questionable, especially if taken out of context, and on the other hand, evil or not, we can't argue the Nazi regime was insufficiently *motivated*.


Anonymous said...

Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

J'Carlin said...

A group of people no matter how committed can never accomplish anything. History shows that on any scale, large or small it is always a single committed individual that for good or usually for not so good can feel the prevailing needs of a large group of followers and provide a focus for their beliefs.

Whether it is a genetic imperative as some argue, or a conditioned belief like the major religions, without a committed leader nothing happens. The leader may be human or supernatural, which is the power of religions, but H. Sap. need to believe in something or someone to do anything.

Cobb said...

I wonder if you are watching Mr. Robot. it's a great meditation on young people who desperately want to change the world facing the old people who run the world.