Eternal change

18.08.2020 | Author: Stefanie Pichlmair | Photo: Javier Pardina

Two parachutists, who are in the air with a red-and-yellow parachute. In the background: a clear sky.
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Only one thing is certain: Nothing stays the same. Isn’t that nice? An ode to progress.

The future belongs to the brave. That’s why we shouldn’t let ourselves be shaken by turbulent times. If our everyday life is already changing – why not fight for a few things that we want to change anyway?

We humans are often attached to what we know. Yes, we generally like change, but only if it’s not too demanding. If it’s going to hurt, then we'd rather stick to more of the same. But change is a wonderful and exciting concept. It’s an opportunity for a better world. As women, we especially could use a better world. For example, one in which we’re paid fairly. That's why we shouldn’t be afraid of change and why we shouldn’t stop questioning the status quo – even in times of crisis.

Change as an evolutionary concept

In his theory of evolution “On the Origin of Species” from 1859, Charles Darwin had already explained that the living creatures that can adapt most quickly to a new situation are the ones with the best chance of survival. Darwin called it survival of the fittest. American screenwriter and director Nora Ephron held a similar view: “Be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” Nowadays, it’s no longer a question of mere survival. Nonetheless, even in our time, those who are quick to recognize change benefit from it the most. Just ask Whitney Wolfe Herd, co-founder of the dating app Bumble, who earned her fortune by realizing that women approach dating differently than men and then developing an app to meet those needs.

Because change often doesn’t happen piecemeal, we don’t necessarily see how much of a difference each single step can make. They only make sense later, when they work together to form a greater whole. Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, but he was only able to step out into the moon dust because someone, let's call him Terence, invented the sealing material for the seams on Armstrong’s space suit. Without Terence, Neil Armstrong would have been ripped into countless tiny particles when the space capsule was opened.

It all boils down to one question: Are we going to do something to make the world a better place or are we going to give up?

We never know beforehand whether our ideas will take someone to the moon or if we’re going to end up with a pile of useless seals taking up space in the garage, so we’re afraid to even try. Because the last thing we want is to make our situation worse. We may not even think the status quo is so great, but at least it’s familiar, and we won't make fools of ourselves. We have to learn that there is no progress without risk and that the really successful people are always taking a bit of a gamble.

We should get off the sidelines and get down to business ourselves. Former First Lady Michelle Obama put it this way: “Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t.” It all boils down to one question: Are we going to do something to make the world a better place or are we going to give up?

Change starts with us

Everything can be the start of something new. For example, a bride who refuses to throw a bouquet of cut flowers at her single friends because she questions how it would actually benefit them. Just as we should do when we understand that we live with expectations and traditions – and that everything is negotiable. When we question things, we find out that we could often do them quite differently.

Change and the role of women

It’s also clear that not everything new is good and not everything old needs to be modernized. Anyone who wants to understand whether a change makes sense or not has to stay informed. Otherwise, the convincing factor won’t be the person with the better argument, but whoever shouts the loudest.

In 2011, Saudi Arabia was the last nation recognized by the international community to introduce women’s suffrage. This means that all women worldwide are eligible to vote. But voting rights are only the beginning: In 1949 the sentence “Men and women are equal” was added to the German constitution. However, it took another 13 years before women were allowed to open their own bank accounts without first having to ask for permission from their husbands. And, until 1977, women were even legally obliged to run the household. You’d think those days were behind us now, but they’re not: a study by Dr. Jutta Allmendinger, a German sociologist and chairwoman of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, shows that during the Covid-19 lockdown, 75 percent of childcare was provided by women – including fully employed women living with a partner. That is far from equal.

Change as a revolution

To ensure that we value essential work more sustainably in the future, we need a care revolution. How can we turn systemically important occupations into well-paying jobs? We have to ask ourselves how much this work is worth to us as a society. Work that requires quite a bit of professional, personal, and psychological skills. If we were to focus more on actual performance, professions such as teacher or nurse would quickly become much better paid positions. Maybe then more young people would want to study these professions, regardless of gender – and that would be a real victory over the crisis.

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