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Social Discomfort & Innovation

One major aspect of change and adaptation is the concept of prejudice, especially that which leads to direct or indirect discrimination. One needs look no further than the civil rights and social justice movements for examples of institutional racism, sexism, ablism and discrimination that still plague our society today. Where you find injustice, you will also find those who seek, demand, fight for and regulate change and adaptation.

The natural trend and evolution of “civilized society” has always been: Try something new > This is GREAT! > Well… Division of opinion on the quality of life > Battle between progress and status quo > Eventual and incremental change. Then, the process begins once again. No matter the rhetoric of popularity, there is no “Great society” because every time period, culture or government comes with major flaws, forms of oppression and social discomfort.

When I speak of social discomfort, I think about how people deal with historical precedent. It is in this place of social discomfort that prejudice and discrimination come from. Indeed, change and innovation would be impossible without social discomfort, yet as a species we recoil from the discomfort and seek to eliminate it. Our selfish desire is to be comfortable – even if that means that other people suffer. Far too often, historically and in present day, broad social discomfort caused by selfish influence, is dictated by individuals with wealth and power. However, the inverse is also true. Those who feel the social discomfort fight back so that they can too feel comfortable in life and in their own skin. These reactionary measures are the driving force behind the progress and growth that we have seen in society. In other words, we rarely innovate or create with proactive discourse… we only continue our reactions which perpetuate social discomfort.

This is not to say that we need to fundamentally change the way we push society forward. Instead, this is simply statement of the reality that drives change and adaptation. No offense, but we, as a global society, do not have the capacity to innovate a new and better society where all people are truly happy and fulfilled. However, if we can see the faults in how we approach problems and more people can see past their own discomforts to proactively think about the future, we could potentially take bigger leaps forward. In my opinion, there are many factors that get in the way of truly “innovative adaptation”:

· Urgency – It is difficult to be creative, especially on the societal level, when people are fighting for their lives and livelihoods. We have basic human needs – food, water, shelter – and we still haven’t figured out a way for all people to feel comfort and security with the basics.

· Financial Insecurity – Whether we talk about people living in poverty or the truly wealthy who invest in the stock market, no person has actual financial security. Currency is a human creation; it is volatile and the systems that support its use are fickle. The only innovation that comes from financial insecurity is the creation of systems designed to help selfish individuals secure their own well-being. This truly is comfort of the fittest.

· Disunity – We don’t really know what “we” as a society want. We only know what “we” as individuals want. For all that we have learned about our diverse global human existence, there is still far too much disagreement in the basics. And even in the areas where we do agree, we lack the determination and sacrifice to make the basics truly accessible and comfortable.

Urgency, Financial Security and Disunity are society’s burdens. They are our mission critical goals to proactively (not reactively) deal with. If we do not, we will continue the cycle of uncomfortable social evolution, complete with all the prejudice and discrimination that we can tolerate… until we once again can’t tolerate anymore.

Here is hoping for a better tomorrow. One where all people can innovate.

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