Are Your “Change Muscles” in Shape for 2008?

Re yesterday’s post (below) and New Year’s Renewal Mania: 

 I notice that we sometimes talk as if personal changes (diet, exercise, smoking) are in one realm, while “Big” changes (reducing waste, taking care of the environment, improving race relations) are in another.

The first category  seems almost trivial (why not floss more often?),  while the other is fraught with ethics and morality and political angst (why not work for racial justice?).   But are they really that neatly and completely separated? Without sounding irreverent, I’d argue that they’re closer than we might think.

Leaders often call upon “the American people” to support some policy or other. They speak of “the generous spirit of the American people” and so on. But in fact there is no collective will to call upon; there are only the individual decisions to change or not change made by millions of people. Some will choose to be generous or resolute or brave, while others will not.

If someone is in the habit of making racial slurs and hopes to stop doing it, won’t he have to call on the same “change muscles”  he uses to stop eating so many banana splits? If those muscles are strong from use, the change may be easier than if they’re almost atrophied from disuse.

If you “know” you should recycle but don’t, you’re running into the same problem you encounter when you “know” you should refuse that third martini but don’t. To say otherwise is to posit some kind of dual brain, one half devoted to “little” changes and the other half to Big, Serious changes.

 I discussed the difficulty of change, my 2007 problems  in kicking meat* and other matters in an  NPR /KERA radio commentary that aired recently. Read or listen  here if you like.

 Progress report: Of the 21 or so meals most of us have a week, I now eat meat at about 5 or 6 of them. That’s progress,  but I still want to go at least a month or two without munching animal parts for the reasons I outlined.  

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