Making Conversation-Appiah Reflection

Human beings tend to focus on what differs in a situation rather than what binds two things together. It has been said in a previous article that I read in either this class or philosophy stating that when people begin to look at things they have in common with others, they can find a much larger amount of examples than when looking at what differs. Yet this is what we so often choose to do. One thing Appiah said that truly resonated with myself was “If we only came together to try and settle the things we disagree about, we wouldn’t be getting along.” He states that friendships he has cultivated would not be as they are if the friend group came together with a mindset to change the world with what is adjacent to their own beliefs.

Appiah then goes on to talk about how beautiful humans can be when they set aside their differences to come together in love. Not forgetting or going back on their values and morals, but knowing the individual is greater than a set of religious rules. This is something my denomination faces challenges with. We have had pastors leave congregations and congregations leave pastors over the homosexuality issue. At the moment, I am actually writing a paper for another class with the topic being about the upcoming inevitable split of the Church with this issue being at the apex. While observing at my local church who believes what, why and how strongly, I’ve realized a trend that if a person intimately knows a LGBTQ+ person inside a family relationship or a friendship they are much more likely to support the liberal party in our denomination fighting for an upheaval of the Book of Discipline. This falls right in line with Appiah’s belief that stereotypes are destroyed once you see the individual over a group.

 

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Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

Savannah Hinde

Bowling Green State University

Abstract

Using three articles found in Emerging by Barclay Barrios, I have come to the opinion that changing the world is incredibly possible. Usage of creating social habits in churches today is the same thing that changed the face of the nation during the civil rights movement and can be used to change the face of the world in the future.

Key Words: Aids, Civil Rights, Relationships, Connections

Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

When a child is small, their parents often tell them that they can do anything they set their minds to. Changing the world is “no biggie” as long as they want it enough. As this child grows, the realm of possibilities shrinks until it is nothing more than a list of majors on a college website. But what if humans kept their belief in the impossible? Is it even possible to change the world today? Certainly others have done it, but it seems today close to impossible to even cancel a gym membership let alone the suffering of humanity. Using three essays found in Barclay Barrios’ Emerging, there are things one can do to make the impossible possible, this is through changing societal habits and  unifying communities for a common friend.

In the piece From Civil Rights to Megachurches by Charles Duhigg, the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century is connected to what makes Saddleback Church of California thrive. It is believed that movements, no matter the cause, become successful when the leaders of said movement use social habits to unify otherwise secluded groups of people as well as discovering the power of connectivity between individuals. The Montgomery bus boycott held traction at first because of it’s person of interest, Rosa Parks. Many people knew this woman through her involvement of many organizations, clubs, and volunteer work. Her social connections created an outrage of her arrest, and it became a societal expectation of the black community to boycott the buses. There were those who cared passionately about this cause, but many became involved for no other reason than other around them were. Meetings for other sources of peaceful protest became the norm to attend during the weekdays, and walking to work instead of riding the bus became a daily reminder of the cause. The success of the boycott became an outline for those who wanted to change the world in different ways. Though unwittingly, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church is one of these people. He moved to California to serve those who did not know Jesus, and impacted the local area to the point that today, his church is one of the largest in the world. The church grew so fast that he was not able to care for it’s individuals and came to the solution of weekday meetings between small groups of members. In doing this, members of the church created social habits based in their faith which resulted in taking responsibility for their growth as Christians. The church went from something they did, to who they were. Both Warren and MLK Jr. found ways to create a movement that did not sputter out, that had participants who did not need to be lead, but instead became leaders.

Due to how western media depicts it, people often think of Africa as a dry desert void of technology. This is not so, and Helen Epstein’s AIDs, Inc. explores new tactics organization’s use to create awareness in South Africa’s AIDs crisis. Young people in South Africa are well versed in sexual education, yet the percentage of those with the deadly virus is steadily increasing. One organization, loveLife, is taking a new approach to public relations towards teens. It has been realized that negative ads and scare tactics do not create a significant impact when it comes to a young adult’s choice in becoming sexually active, so loveLife has put a positive spin on advertising and uses marketing techniques borrowed from soda and clothing companies. Teens have the opportunity to join a “Y center” where they can play sports and do other activities, but must go through a sex education class before gaining membership. These actions have allowed teenagers and young adults to become more comfortable with openly talking about sex, but does not actively prevent the spread of HIVs. Speaking about AIDs is still taboo and the author believes it to be because of the lax way loveLife tackles the topic.

In the essay Making Conversation by Kwame Anthony Appiah, the author explains how the world has become a single community of sorts, and how that has impacted the ease for one to change the world. Traditions, no matter how deeply ingrained into a society, can be changed relatively easily with the view of society’s judgement. This can be seen in examples of Chinese foot binding and the change in a woman’s role in American society. Humans have adapted to this, but have yet to harness it’s potential to do good in the world. It is not because different societies argue on what is “good”, but why and how it should be played out. The globalization of communities can be used in amazing ways.

All three of these diverse articles hit on one subject that when thought about can seem almost too simple. Society and the influence of one’s community on an individual is what allows a movement to become impactful. In South Africa, the AIDs epidemic is no closer to ending because the people are afraid to speak on such a taboo. Yet in the article, Epstein talks about the neighboring nation of Uganda and how their take on AIDs is successful do to its normalization in the culture. He says, “Kampala taxi drivers talked as passionately about AIDs as taxi drivers did elsewhere discuss politics or football. And they talked about it in a way that would seem foreign to many in South Africa because it was all so personal: “my sister”, “my father”, “my neighbor”, “my friend”’ (Epstein 116). Uganda has made talking about AIDs into a social habit, therefore changing society’s view on it. Many changes in society have less to do with the learning of new facts, and more with perspectival change. Appiah speaks to this as well. He argues that old and beloved traditions can be broken within a short amount of time with no more than changing society’s view on a tradition. An example of this is foot binding in China. This tradition was thousands of years old, and the first attempt at eradicating it in the 1910’s and 20’s was unsuccessful in it’s method of explaining the negative effects it had on oneself. Soon, the Chinese found themselves loosing respectability within the world’s community as other nations began to scorn the practice. Once it became known as taboo in other countries, foot binding was almost fully eradicated within a generation. Social habits do not only end malpractices, it also binds people together. This can be in many settings, from a church community to the entire black community of America. They can be used to explain the civil rights movement, “Social habits are what fill streets with protesters who may not know one another, who might be marching for different reasons, but who are all moving in the same direction. Social habits are why some initiatives become world-changing movements, while others fail to ignite” (Duhigg 85). There are many movements started, but very few become world changing.

The social movements that make an impact and flourish can seem random at times, but Duhigg believes that there is a three-part process to how a movement gather followers:

“A movement starts because of the social habits of friendships and the strong ties between close acquaintances.

It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.

And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.” (Duhigg 85)

A person with no investment of a cause often joins in because a friend near them is invested. Soon a large group is moving in one direction, and other members of a community fear becoming an outsider, which causes them to join the movement. Soon it become impossible to return to the previous norm, and a new normalcy in a community is created. The last worry of a leader for such movement is to avoid burnout by feeding new reasons to continue and allowing followers to find ownership and leadership in the movement, quickly making it their personal responsibility to continue growth.

This outline of success can be seen in action at Saddleback Church in California, pastored by Rick Warren. He believes that the American church as a whole is losing members because it has allowed people to be comfortable as observers and not pushing them into action. Once a person is invested in their own faith, a pastor become a guide rather than the entirety of one’s religious life. This is also true for bringing new people to Christ, “If you try to scare people into following Christ’s example, it’s not going to work for too long. The only way you get people to take responsibility for their spiritual maturity is to teach them habits of faith. Once that happens, they become self-feeders. People follow Christ not because you’ve led them there, but because it’s who they are.” (Duhigg 97) This viewpoint in churches was first seen elsewhere.

It is common knowledge that the Montgomery bus boycott was one of the first large-scale demonstration of the civil rights era. Rosa Parks was not the first African American to be arrested on public transportation in the city, yet she made all the difference. She was involved in many different social circles within the city which created a personal investment for many as their generous, meek and mild “friend” was incarcerated. These friends began the movement against the city buses, and soon it became a personal movement for so many that it became humiliating as an African American to be seen on a bus. Black preachers talked to their congregations and told them that every other black church would be doing this, essentially telling them that it would be very embarrassing to be seen on a bus that day. They would be alone, “Men were ridding mules to work, and more than one horse-drawn buggy drove over the streets of Montgomery. Spectators had gathered at the bus stops to watch what was happening” (Duhigg 95). The Montgomery bus boycott was an example of a city-wide social movement that soon became nation-wide. Today, we have the opportunity to create world-wide social movements.

Changing social habits throughout a university may seem intimidating, yet technology today gives people the opportunity to change much more than what they can simply see around them. Only in the past few centuries has humanity been drawn into a singular web rather than small societies clueless of each other, “Now, if I walk down New York’s Fifth Avenue on an ordinary day, I will have within sight more human beings than most of those prehistoric hunter-gatherers saw in a lifetime” (Appiah 44). Humanity now belongs to a new community, which is the world as a whole. The only question left is how can this community become closer? Binding friendships are needed to change societal habits, and it is not easy to become invested in lives thousands of miles away from one’s own life. Change does not occur because at once, everyone suddenly decides to face the same direction. Change relies on social patterns that begin as friendship. The answer to the question is “slowly”. Humans must begin to learn to focus on what binds them together rather than the geographic entities that separate.

The scale of what can be changed has grown to encompass all of humanity. Because of technology, the way humans communicate has changed completely. This can be used to connect people across the world through social media, putting faces to numbers and creating compassion for those who suffer. Money can be raised in a blink of an eye and with the click of a button. It is believable that the world is becoming a better and more just place to live because of the global connection we have today.

 

References

Appiah, K. A. (2010). Making Conversation. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 43). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Epstein, H. (2010). AIDS, Inc. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 43-59). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Duhigg, C. (2010). From Civil Rights to Megachurches. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 85). Bedford/St. Martin’s.