On change

by The Editor

SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a look at the idea of change – something which is very often resisted on the basis that the unknown is the source of unease and, to venture into it, is to risk the comfort of the status quo. So change often shares a particular relationship with both bravery and loss.

On change

By: Gareth van Onselen

7 August 2012

Change, it is said, is difficult. Most difficult for those not wanting to change but whom, nonetheless, find themselves swept up in some upheaval and forced to reassess the things they assumed set in stone. That can be the source of much insecurity; for the known offers comfort and safety, the unknown, fear and doubt.

So, at the heart of change, often you will find both loss and bravery. Progress can be painful. While ultimately beneficial, those things left behind were, in their time, beautiful; possibly even the outcome of progress itself and thus worth admiring and learning from. Now, however, they have been rendered redundant and that can be cruel.

It requires some bravery to motivate for change; more bravery still to ensure it actually happens: to overcome and persuade that inherent resistance and inertia to change that seems to define the human soul; never mind any real sacrifice it might demand. Indeed, bravery not only to overcome any potential loss but to push forward into the unknown. No matter how detailed or wondrous some new vision, inherent to it is risk and that alone can render even the mighty meek.

Many things necessitate change. These days, more often than not, it is progress and betterment. (Do not forget, there was a time in the affairs of man when regressive change was a constant threat.) When such positive things motivate change, its reward far outweighs the risk. And, when achieved, there are all the associated benefits to look forward to. If anything, it is on those things one should focus, and the potential knowledge and insight their attainment holds. After all, they are the point of progressive change in the first place.

One can spend time and effort protecting the status quo, and it is true there are occasions when that attitude is necessary; for the most part, though, to disregard progress and with it change is to augment ignorance and, all things being relative, entrench decline.

To the complacent and conflict-averse alike change represents a threat; to the gambler, it is no different from any chance they might care to bet on; but to the visionary, change is the necessary mechanism through which progress is ensured.

An abbreviated version of this column first appeared in the Business Day. For more columns from The Thing About series, click here.

To follow Inside Politics by e-mail simply go to the bottom of the page and fill in your address. When you confirm it, you will receive an e-mail the moment any new post is loaded to the site.