by James and Grace Lee Boggs (Feb 12, 2016)
A new idea has little power over humankind unless an old tradition has exhausted itself. Today we have the opportunity to unleash our own vision of the tomorrow for which humanity is striving. We have come to the end of and era that began centuries ago in the part of the Planet we call Europe with the idea that “more is better” and that economic development was more important than taking political responsibility for our relationships with one another. […]
For, once we understand the reality, we then must have the patience, commitment and imagination to chart a totally new course which will enable us to create the new relationships of mutual respect, responsibility and cooperation with one another that will ultimately give us more power over our own lives than any amount of money.
Rejection is not enough. Every group that strikes out to make social change begins with rejecting what was or is. But no matter how wronged we have been by our society, rejection is not enough, for it is essentially negative in scope, direction and conclusion. In order to move beyond this present crisis of human spirit, we most reject or “break away from” those things or ideas in our past and present that hold us back or serve to maintain the present anti-human, sterile conditions. But we cannot stop here. We must then project new ideas and relations that will enable society to advance to the next higher level of evolutionary growth.
Because we dare to believe that people can and want to live differently, we also believe that we can change ourselves and the society we live in. We believe that new people can create a new society in which we relate to one another and to our environment in ways that encourage our collective and creative potential or our human character. This we believe because we understand that the real determinant to how we are going to live is us.
Thus, that change we are talking about is a drama in which we are the main characters building relationships with one another and laying the foundation for a new society by the choices we make. The change we are talking about is a protracted struggle in which we are acting out new roles and doing new deeds that are dramatically different from the passive roles and cynical deeds of our past, because we are determined to build other, more humanly beneficial and productive, relationships which will advance us as members of the World Community. […]
This represents the underlying desire that each of us has to be more fully human. To enter and influence history in connection with other people is the need that aches in all our deepest selves. It is this uniquely human desire that is missing in the so called “American” materialism and individualism. We have not fulfilled our need to exercise social and political responsibility because we have been cast adrift in a sea of technological solutions. It is this need that we must now recognize, strive to nurture and incorporate into our struggle to change ourselves and the World in which we live.
But all this is purely theoretical until or unless we seriously participate in making some changes in ourselves and in this part of the Planet. Until we have a will or reason to change, we cannot change. Our reason is not just the need to change relations between men and women, young and old, black and white. Our reason is to develop in everybody a different concept of her/his potential as a human being which will in turn give all of us a different concept of our relationships to one another. We are trying to create a new identity for ourselves as citizens of the World by appealing to an aspect of our human nature which is not to be selfish, not to be alienated, not to be isolated. We are saying to you that we are not what we have taught we were. We are something else that we are feeling we are. And the reason we are in this present crisis is because we have not broken through to these feelings yet. We have not created lasting human bonds between and among us.
The greatest kinship and love are found in the shared lives of people immersed in a collective effort to change their society –in search of a more tolerable and ultimately more human social relations. The recognition that human relationships are the heart of life; that changing society includes changing culture and people’s daily lives; that economic and materialistic greed is sterile; that friendship and community don’t just happen on their own but must be consciously created –all of this, which we feel in our hearts, we must declare to be self-evident truths and then commit ourselves to making them real. What we are talking about is a spiritual rebirth that is the result of human interaction and sharing.
Only us can initiate the creative work through which we can reclaim that which is so fundamental to our being human. Because of the creativity of human beings, we, women and men, can shape our own destiny. We have the power within ourselves to chose. No one can force us. We each have to make up our minds.
Unless you change your attitudes and actions, the part of the Planet we call the U.S., can only continue to pile up good, pollution and war. Change has to begin with each of us because human beings are not like a school of fish who all change direction at the same time. Thus, the challenge is to each of us to change ourselves into the new women and men who can decide, with other women and men, what kind of society we want to live in and what we must do to create such society. Changing society means changing people, starting with ourselves.
–James and Grace Lee Boggs. Excerpt from the pamphlet “Change Yourself To Change The World” (1979), Chapter IV: Changing Ourselves First by the National Organization For An American Revolution now the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.