Being the change, or becoming the system?

“It’s always darkest before you burn the bridge behind you.” 

I think Marc may have meant this as emotionally it is most distressing before breaking ties with an ill acquaintance and after you feel much better about discontinuing the relationship.

However, I’ve taken Marc’s word’s to mean that you have to accept that you’re fighting someone, that you can’t fight someone and work together at the same time. This also means that if you are working together with a party you cannot be fighting them at the same time.

This idea can be extended to:

Being a mole turns you into the ultimate insider.


People who want to fight the system from the inside end up becoming the system.

And I think this is true for better or worse. It all links back to the need to belong, either you belong to the opposition or the system, there’s little room for the grey area in between.  You can’t fight openly or on all fronts while working with someone, because essentially the definition of working together is compromising. Which means that when you’re trying to fight the system from the inside you have to compromise with the system. Though the optimist in me felt like it was the real revolution when Hyde’s crush on That 70’s Show said

"Hyde, rebellion is cool and all, but I want to get into a good college so I can fight the system from the inside."

Read more:
 and clearly I did that cus I'm here at VT rather than Occupying Wallstreet or destroying Capitalism
academic elitism and the patriarchy.

The pessimist in me knows that some would argue that the act of compromising with the system means you have lost the fight against the system itself. And that by joining academia and pursuing a career in a field that will “get me a good job” I have joined the system. In fact I am writing this for the system since this blog is an assignment, therefore could it be argued that my points arguing for fighting the system are rendered mute.

And the pragmatist in me tells both sides to pick their battles. After all how will institutions change for the better without those fighting on the inside to Be the Change?


Today you might have noticed women “blacking out” their profile pictures in light of the Supreme Court situation, some women are arguing for a blackout- an attempt to show society what it would be like without women participating. Critics have said this exit from the stage only gives the opposition what it wants which is silence from women that can be taken as consent. However, they fail to realize that this “blackout” is essentially the burning of the  bridge, or the fighting the system by leaving the system. And women who say we should not be silent, but should scream louder at the system are essentially trying to “be the change” or change the system by working with it and confronting it with the problems they see. The main issue with the “blackout” is that the exit from the system is only the first step one has to take in fighting it, this must be followed up by attacking and destroying the system. aka taking the Patriarchy and burning it to the ground. 

“Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?”

Is it possible to do both? At the same time working with the same people?

Is it even really possibly to exit the system enough to fight it? In some cases maybe not. Like capitalism, could one really remove oneself from a capitalist system and still have the means to fight the system itself? Of course this totally depends on the definition one is using for capitalism, or whatever system you’re trying to fight. If you make yourself too much of an outsider is it even really possible to have an effect on the system you’re trying to change. Marx would seem to argue that you cannot change the system for the better, you can only destroy it and replace it with another. So in that case it would be argued, people who say they want to fight the system from the inside, really don’t want to fight the system, they want to work within the system and with the system to change some of it’s features, but not its fundamental tenants. Essentially the two principles of “fighting the system” and “being the change” seem to be a paradox for each other.

It seems a lot easier to change a system that already exists than to completely tear it down and make a new one. But this also brings up the point of how different must this “new” system be to signify that it is no longer the old system. For example, the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers created a new system of government, twice with the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution, and would be an example of tearing down a system and replacing it. But what about the English Parliment and the UK’s system of government? Can it be argued that this is a “new” system different from the old system of monarchy? I mean essentially the goal of the American revolution, of liberating themselves from the ultimate rule of a monarch has been achieved by the current UK system, but this goal was achieved in completely different ways. The American Revolution essentially was a fight the system masterpiece, in that it completely tore down a system of government and replaced it with another. Whereas the UK’s system is essentially a be the change masterpiece, in that working within the system and with the system slowly over time the system was changed until it was changed so much that it could be argued it’s completely new, yet still recognized slightly by the original.

Everyone loves to romanticize the American Revolution, after all who doesn’t love a good rebel? However, I would argue that most people who want to “fight the system” are really rebels without a cause.

Or rather they have a cause, but not a plan. Not only do you have to overthrow the system, you also need a good replacement for it.

So then for us non demi-god George Washingtons and Alexander Hamilitons we have to circle back to the dilemma of how to change the system from the inside without becoming the system?

And when picking between Fighting the System and Being the Change, Is it better to be right, or to be seen as on the moral high ground? And which is which?


You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

-the Beatles

What are you’re thoughts? Is destruction of an entire system ever really justified? Can we both “fight the system” and “be the change” at the same time? Do you want to burn the patriarchy to the ground? Or think you’d rather work with the patriarchy or whatever system it is that’s bothering you?

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

One Response to “Being the change, or becoming the system?”

  • Lauren:

    You laid out some really interesting points in the above article. To focus on one, the blacking out profiles on Facebook after the SCOTUS shake up last week got me thinking. It is quite a oxymoron, blacking out to have solidarity with women and survivors to show other users what it’d be like without women vs blacking out to show all nonsupporters that women are consenting by becoming silent. I believe it is a personal choice, and if it takes blacking out and becoming silent to Fight the System… then one can begin to change the system.

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