“What people call impartiality may simply mean indifference, and what people call partiality may simply mean mental activity.”
~ G K Chesterton.

In the early 90s of the last century, I was quite involved in the study and teaching of Systems Thinking and was quite impressed by Donella and Dennis Meadows with their Limits To Growth and the subsequent Beyond The Limits and also other works of the Club Of Rome.  This led me naturally to Peter Senge and his The Fifth Discipline and to The Learning Organisation.  To quite a significant extent I was able to put in practice some of the important lessons I had learnt from these sources and to still use them in my mentoring.

In the Fifth Discipline, there is a quote which I reproduce below which left a lasting impression on me for its sheer brilliance.  That it came from a remarkable man was just incidental to the truth contained in that statement.

“When we try to bring about change in our societies, we are treated first with indifference, then with ridicule, then with abuse and then with oppression. And finally, the greatest challenge is thrown at us: We are treated with respect. This is the most dangerous stage.”

~ A. T. Ariyaratne.

(A.T. Ariyaratne is one of the world’s most successful community organizers. His organization, the Sarvodaya Shramadana, has mobilized millions of people in Sri Lanka in successful grass roots initiatives, with lasting benefits for Sri Lanka’s economic and community development.

Ariyaratne reminds us that it is easier to begin initiatives than to bring enduring changes to fruition. At the early stages, excitement comes easily. Later, after you begin to make progress, opposition develops – which can actually mobilize your efforts. People see themselves fighting “a noble battle” against the entrenched forces preserving the status quo. A few small initial victories establish confidence that more progress is just around the corner. Eventually, the initiative is treated with respect: the “enemy outside” begins to espouse all the same goals, objectives, and ideals as those instigating the change. At this point, it is easy for people to think that the work is over. In fact, it may be just starting.———————————-Extracted from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Sange.)

I have personal experience of this phenomenon in organisations where I was an instrument of change and also in two mini and a midi societies.

In retrospect I believe that I should have walked out as a catalyst of the whole change process at the stage of indifference to have saved myself a lot of frustration and unhappiness.  That eventually I had to face the Success stage and handle the fallout thereof never really took away the feeling that I should have given up when from indifference the system went to ridicule when I had to face scepticism and snickers.  But being the cussed fellow that I was then, I persisted and had the satisfaction of earning respect and being left alone to handle the aftermath. In the process I had to trod on a number of toes and a few of them have become life long antagonists, much to my regret.

Moral of the story?  When you face indifference when you initiate change, quit.  Unless you want to sacrifice peace of mind. And that dear friends, brings to mind another impressive observation from an incisive mind.

“The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.” ~ John Galsworthy.

I hope that you enjoyed my post for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where five of us write on the same topic every Friday. Today’s topic was suggested by Maxi. The four other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaMaxi, and Shackman. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!