Change versus progress

As an American citizen, I have been following the campaigns of the US Presidential hopefuls.  As is typical of most any election the politicians are making promises left, right, and center.  Pretty much they are promising whatever their supporters want to hear. 

There is almost always a common undercurrent in all the promises: change.  They definitely understand what Oscar Wilde said to be true when he said, “Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.”  These politicians look at what people are most discontent or disgruntled about and promise to change it whether or not it is really their intention to do so, or even in their power to change it.

In past elections it seems that it is the charisma with which the candidates deliver their promises of change that ultimately get them elected.  It seems no different now.  Why else would the main forerunners be so appalling yet still able to draw large numbers of supporters?

What is it about the promise of change that draws us in?  I confess to listening to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spew their rhetoric and propaganda and for a brief fraction of a second I am almost convinced that the changes they propose are a good thing or even possible. 

Sometimes I think we desire change for the sake of change, not because it will really fix a problem.  I have to remind myself of something basketball hall-of-famer John Wooden said, “Although there is no progress without change, not all change is progress.”

What is the real purpose for change; isn’t it meant to be progress?  So if a change doesn’t bring progress don’t buy into it – don’t do it.  Easier said than done though, right?  How can we determine if changes are really progress or not?  My experience is that progress usually entails work. 

Progress involves homework (knowing where you are, what got you there, where you want to end up, and what will get you there, etc.)  Progress involves a plan and a desired outcome that improves upon the status quo.  When we evaluate the benefits of a change, we are basically trying to determine if it will help us to progress or not.

Now, back to my politics from the beginning…   How can we tell when the changes proposed by politicians are going to effect progress?  Ironically, the best quote I have ever heard about progress came from a politician.  Adlai E. Stevenson once said, “All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Think of the progress of individuals, nations and the human family; think of the most influential people that have ever walked this earth.  Who comes to mind?  Maybe you thought of Jesus Christ, maybe Muhammad, Muhatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, maybe even Galileo, Martin Luther King or William Shakespeare.  You could have even thought of great inventors and developers like Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, or a more modern developer like Bill Gates.

No matter who you thought of, the fact is that most of the time the individuals that effect changes and help us to make progress as individuals and human beings are often unpopular – at least in their own time.  Most of the individuals listed above were very unpopular initially.  So if you have politicians who are saying all the things everyone wants to hear, most likely they will make little real progress despite how much of what they are saying is pleasing.  So, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton thanks, but no thanks; you’re not going to help America or the rest of the world progress.

So who can be the change that America and the world are looking for?  I confess I am not sure – my opinion is that there is one candidate in the ranks of the independents, Gary Johnson, that may have the right mix of the right ideas.  I just hope my fellow Americans can do their homework and identify the changes they want, then look for the unpopular voice that can really deliver the desired progress for America and the world, because the two main options available aren’t up to snuff.

As for here on our little island paradise in the Pacific, I know a lot of this doesn’t directly affect us.  You may even be saying to yourself one of my favorite sayings, “Who cares?”  I get you.  But a wise man learns from others rather than repeating their mistakes.  In our little idyllic island you can remember that change isn’t always progress, and that progress takes work.

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