The System Consequences of Our Actions and the Real Power of a Platorm
All of our actions have systemic consequences. But when the primary concern is our own well being, it becomes easy to ignore systemic consequences of our choices. It becomes easy to believe that our actions don’t make a difference. On an individual level, it may not seem like much of a big deal.
When you optimize for personal gain, while ignoring the impact on any system and add that up over a billion people, the systemic consequences are a threat to the very existence of that system.
Mass incarceration is a perfect example of something that has systemic consequences. Right now there are more prisons in America than universities and colleges. And the prison industrial complex is not only toxic for society, but it’s also highly profitable. Billions of dollars are made as a result of it. Your cell phone provider, your bank, and possibly even the underwear you’re wearing utilize people in prison for less than 32 cents an hour.
What are the systemic consequences? The cycle of poverty continues, which leads to crime, which feeds the prison industrial complex. And tax dollars that could be used for things we need much more are allocated to put people in cages.
Changing systemic consequences requires a change in collective consciousness and collective behavior. It’s not the effort one activist who is screaming from the top of their lungs. It happens in the messages we choose to spread, the information we choose to consume, and even what we decide to buy.
We might be able to ignore systemic consequences in the short run. But we’ll pay a very steep price for this in the long term.
The Real Power of a Platorm
Mainstream media beats the drums of political scandal while dividing society and ignoring issues that matter. But all of us, especially those of us with substantial platforms can make a deliberate choice to participate in the business of what Michelle Gielan calls transformative journalism. Instead of bleeding with what leads, we can lead with what matters.
Of course, it’s tempting to choose the most famous guest for your podcast, write the book that will have mainstream appeal, and cater to the broadest possible group, which is also often the lowest common denominator. These kinds of stories might gain us share of attention in the short run, but it’s not likely they will become in the words of Ryan Holiday Perennial.”
When there’s nothing to follow virality, the work becomes nothing but a one-hit wonder, in the spotlight today, and forgotten by the time we wake up tomorrow. Rather than aiming for as much as attention, we should get, our stories should change the people we tell them for. Seth Godin poses the question, would we miss you when you’re gone? Another question worth considering…
Will they remember what you did for them a year from now and ten years from now?”
I’ll never forget the simple advice of Julien Smith to write a 1000 words a day because of how much it changed my life. I’ll be eternally grateful for 30 seconds that changed everything.
If there’s one thing, I learned from my conversation with Glenn Beck it was that a large platform could move people to action in a way that ignites change. If you watch the interviews that David Letterman does, you’ll notice this theme in virtually everyone he speaks to:
- George Clooney grew up being forced to spend Christmas morning giving gifts to strangers, which has deeply informed his charity work today.
- Malala is building schools in refugee camps.
- Jay Z made a documentary about the toxic impacts of the prison industrial complex, which often punishes the poor and innocent, and lets the rich and guilty go free.
The value of a substantial platform is not what you get from it but what you can give because of it. Your words, regardless of form, have the power to create change. Use them wisely.
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