How to change the world properly is a tricky problem. I was first formally posed this problem — how do we change the world? (I mean really make the world a more meaningful place for ourself and everyone else, and not just make it worse) by Dr. Jordan Peterson, but informally I have been thinking about this since I was around 18 years old. The deep desire to make the world a better place is a completely natural stage in the course of human development and usually begins in the late teens or early twenties. As a young person, I am in this stage now. The manifestation of this process can be realized on least three different levels of analysis: the attempt to reorder the social structure itself, the attempt to reorder the external conditions of ones own life, and the attempt to reorder one’s own personal identity. Later, I will try to briefly describe some good ways and some bad ways to achieve specific social changes, but first I would like to point towards the absolute necessity of firmly establishing one’s own personal identity and beliefs before being capable of tackling more complex social problems. This basically means fixing all the little tiny problems you have in your own life first — everyone has plenty — and as a result you will become stronger and wiser, hence more able to manage problems of more complexity. As author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”
Below I have included a map of the social matrix in which each individual finds his/her self. The point of the illustration is to show that the individual is the foundation for all higher-order social interactions:
Because the world is complex, there is always an infinite number of ways of construing the facts: some helpful ways, some detrimental or counterproductive ways, and some that are completely irrelevant for the ends we are seeking. Many maps would mark society as the fundamental unit and take far less regard for the individuals making it up, noting that without society none of these individuals could exist. The communist notion is an example of this type of map. Other maps would put the worship of a transcendental being as the fundamental unit and subordinate all individuals and material things as peripheral. Christianity, Buddhism, and the other monotheistic religions are great examples of this type of map. There are other maps that I do not have time to discuss. I am not interested in refuting the validity of these other maps, but would like to suggest that the individual-centered map as I have drawn above is crucial, and is the most useful to achieve the supposed outcome of pursuing a higher education (and education in general). As this blog is intended for those high school and college students who have not yet firmly established their own personal identity, it would be counterproductive for my readers to start an analysis of societal interaction from any point of view besides that of the individual. In analogy, this would be like trying to learn the calculus before knowing arithmetic. If instead of fixing yourself first you decide, for example, to tackle a large abstract problem, say, capitalism or healthcare or maybe even society as a whole, then you will, in all likelihood, be too weak and too ignorant of the situation to make any positive effect. This may sound harsh but is true in my experience. If you are here to make the world and your own life better, then there is no other place to start but to change the things you can actually change in your own life first and work your way outward towards ever broader social networks. The map you have of yourself is the key for all the other maps!