Changing Each Other

Most of us are well aware of the (sometimes unpleasant) reality that the institutions we are a part of seek to change us. Through the sometime maladroit mean of carrots and sticks they seek to push and prod and motivate us into taking some course of action that suits the interests of those who run such institutions, and our attitude towards them can vary from eager and willing compliance to sullen hostility. A great deal of ink can be spent discussing specific changes, all of them dealing with the resistance to change that human beings show in general, but there are at least a few consistent sorts of changes that institutions wish to make on people as a whole: encouraging behaviors that are profitable for those in charge of the institution, discouraging behaviors that are unprofitable, and the like. That which is profitable for those who run these institutions is not always profitable or beneficial to ordinary people, and when people act in their own best interests it will generally lead to tension between people who know what is best for them and those who want to think that they know what is best for them.

It is important to realize, though, that this frustrated effort to encourage change goes in two directions. Just as our institutions seek to change us, we too seek to change our institutions. Where choice exists in what sort of places where we can obtain products that we want, a significant pressure exists on those institutions to give people what they want, because they can choose other options if they want. Sometimes this is a rather frivolous and basic sort of matter and sometimes it can strike on fundamental and deep aspects of life. And just as people are sometimes reluctant or outright hostile to serve the interests of (possibly corrupt) institutions, so too institutions are sometimes reluctant to change according to the interests of those they profess to serve. We are all human beings alike, and while we may like to encourage others to change in ways that are beneficial to us, we are seldom as willing or eager to change in ways that benefit others and may not necessarily benefit us.

What is it that we want from others and what is it that others want from us? This question varies between situations and over time. Some people may wish to pick our brains to gain worthwhile insights from us. Some may wish to provide us a good or service for their own profit which may or may not meet our own needs and wishes. Some people may just wish to be left alone. The same is true in reverse. We may not want very much from our institutions much of the time, when life is going well and we seem to have things under control for the moment. At other times we may want a lot from our institutions that they are ill-equipped to give, and it is precisely when we are at our most needy that others may find it hard to give, or at least to give without some major strings attached. The same is true in reverse–we may not be very willing to give to institutions who need a lot of help, and they may not be willing to accept the terms of our assistance in such moments either.

In life we tend to find ourselves involved in similar sorts of patterns across many areas of life. People in our lives may wish to change us, our doctor may wish to push us to change our behavior, our cell phone company wants us to get a new and expensive phone so it can phase out older cell phone architecture, and the restaurant we eat at may want us to download an app for them and answer surveys and encourage us to try their new lunch options, and so on. We are filled with people who want to influence us to take a course of action that will suit our own interests. But we are also trying to influence them, in writing reviews, in complaining to their customer service lines, and the like. It is on these complex battlefields of maneuver and counter-maneuver that the drama of life is formed.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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