how personal growth is failing us

I am extremely stimulated when I see images, banners and statements like the one posted to the left. I’m deeply angry and hurt that people believe that all we need is personal growth and liberation to make the world a better place. I want a shared understanding  that the world needs much more. We need to look at the systemic issues that plague our society.

Below it a comment I shared with a friend:

This is a common theme I hear in the Nonviolent Communication network, if I change myself the world will be a better place. And this is perhaps partly accurate, and yet it’s only one step and definitely not the last. The following steps include looking at the conditions of oppression that govern us. This goes beyond personal growth, and self liberation. This is an invitation to explore and look at the core of social issues that are at the heart of psychological and interpersonal issues. This is the heart of social change, to identify the social and systemic issues, and work towards resolving them–not perpetuating this idea of personal enlightenment as the cure to a peaceful and abundant world.

I’m not interested in becoming an enlightened happy slave, while people in other countries (and in our own) suffer enormously because of the umbrella of privilege I (we) live under. I want to work towards identifying, naming and changing these issues. I believe that addressing these issues will change the conditions in which people live under, and changes the people as well.

Comments Please?

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5 Responses to how personal growth is failing us

  1. I agree with you William. You are steering the conversation where it needs to go. I wonder if you could further identify those ways where privilege for some affects the underprivileges of others and the types of things that have been done to right the situation in different cultures and communities around the world.

  2. William, I also not only agree with what you are saying, I think that these points are not made often enough by others. I think that many people are well-intended, with good hearts and values, but it feels so daunting to try to make even small steps toward “bigger picture,” long-term change that many want to convince themselves that it’s enough to change themselves. One could use many metaphors, but like fish swimming in water, if the water is badly polluted, it doesn’t help for one fish to make him/herself healthy, eventually all the fish will die if the water is made more healthy. In a similar way, we live today in the US in what Giroux has aptly named, a “culture of cruelty”–we need to change the culture and the injust political and economic system that creates that culture. Fortunately, there are a growing number of people writing about the need for a “bigger picture” perspective and effort, like you are. I find a lot of Henry Giroux writing to be especially compelling and insightful. Here’s a link:

  3. Profile photo of wpoehner wpoehner says:


    Easy enough, take the smart phone for example. Ask your self, what is the real price of the smart phone? How many people died to make this technology possible? What countries resources were taken to make this possible?

    US foreign policy is based on controlling the flow of all the natural resources on the planet, hence Libya. So it’s the poor Chinese families that scarifies their labor for our privileges, it’s Arab communities that sacrifice their resources for our advancement. This is the true price of an ipad/iphone/android.

    We are fueling the engine of oppression, but hey fuck it…where getting enlightened to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

    maybe a little too dramatic..

  4. Thanks, I hadn’t thought about it in terms of those particular products. I think about indigenous people and wonder what happened to my ancestors in Scandinavia as I learn about the history of the Saami aka Lapps. We all know too well the game of keeping up with the Jones that Apple is playing to make us want their latest product. Do we each need that or do we need solar energy more…?

  5. Pastor Brian Banks says:

    Very well put my friend. The core of dealing with the human condition, is to seek complete conversion, mind, body, spirit, and thus Soul. Anything less in our search for change will lack Restoration and or Renewal in our purpose of helping others….and thus self.

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