Malcolm Galdwell in his first best seller “The Tipping Point” makes an interesting and powerful argument that it is often our general environment that creates radical change in individuals and not particularly individual work. As proof he runs us through the deplorable state of New Your City not so many years ago when murder rates soared to, at times over 2000, a year and felonies were though the roof while the subway was literally wall to wall graffiti. Then within a very short time everything reversed spearheaded, according to Galdwell, by a drive to cleanup the subway. The drive was an all out attack; no train was to be let out of the barn with graffiti on it once clean. The point is, and the argument is, that all the criminals did not move out of New York. So why did they quit doing crime?
We tend to have an either or perspective and look to the individual or to the community for solutions. And on the level of, say, criminality we certainly do not think that a simple change of venue, or cleaning service, might be enough to change a life but if we consider what often is so often given as the proximal cause of harmful actions maybe it is not such a stretch.
What is hard to explain is the force that makes the difference, indeed the “tipping point.” I talk a great deal about our day to day battle against confusion and being hurt. No one likes to be hurt or confused. Each of us has various capacities to handle incoming messages and it is not a difficult thought to think that a pleasant beach would be more attractive than a war zone and that people have different capacities to handle those environments. And that is about the extent of it. But Bruit once a “Paris” with beaches is something quite different now and of course Paris has often been something quite different from her ideal. So it is more than just “place.”
But all this said, another way to say this is that people want a certain quality of life and simply do not get it. They desire things. And we often are wrong in thinking that what they/we need is all that much. Small changes can indeed result in large changes.
We see people floundering and we want to “shake them” and say my god stand up and straighten yourself out.” Yet there has to be a “place” in which to do that. Is there?
(New York now has an annual murder rate under 1000 similar to what it was in 1965 but with a greater population. See: http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/nycrime.htm)
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090