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In the current difficult times of which we’re all a part, “So what” is a very popular attitude.  For those of you who teach, do activist outreach, speak in front of groups, or even just try to talk with anyone these days about the important work at hand trying to make the world a better place, I thought you might appreciate this insightful acknowledgement and explanation of those blank stares and skepticism.

It is a short excerpt from an excellent book by Cynthia Kaufman, Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change.

Kaufman writes, “One of the attitudes toward life that’s most popular on television as I’m writing this is cynicism.  Connecting with real people involves emotional vulnerability, and knowing about the world takes work. To protect oneself from either of those challenges, it’s attractive to adopt a worldview that says all human concepts are corrupt and that the outside world isn’t worth knowing about; that the world is corrupt and unchangeable, so informing oneself about it won’t do any good; that anyone who cares about anything is a sucker; and that people involved in social movements are a bunch of hypocrites and won’t accomplish anything anyway.  Therefore, the best strategy is to be aloof, to make fun of people who try to take the world and their existence in it seriously, and to find pleasure and humor in distancing oneself from everything.  While in many ways this cynicism appears to be a safe strategy, it rarely compensates for the loss of personal integrity and the social isolation that come with it” (252).

After reading Ideas for Action, I’ve added it to my own very small collection of what I found to be important books.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a firm understanding of social justice issues as well as hundreds of helpful resources for further learning, strategizing, and envisioning the future of social action.

Kaufman offers an excellent introduction and summary of social movements from a sociological perspective.  While the book is over 300 pages, the subsections are quick and understandable.  She begins by making us aware that we each carry a distorted view of the world based on our cultural norms, ideologies, upbringings, etc.  Her use of surprising historical facts (like the rise of racism only after the conquering of the Americas as a product of capitalism in its infancy) and social facts (like one in every four homeless people have a job) are an effective reminder that we don’t know everything, that we need to keep questioning, and that there is always more to the story.

Kaufman’s theme is that the more we’ve learned from history and the better we understand the context and shared interests of all social movements, the better we will be at designing and carrying out social change.

Kaufman, Cynthia C. 2003. Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Thanks for tuning in… and thank you for all that you do!

All one,
🙂 m