Art & Culture Asides

How Not To Make A Difference

Rosa Parks - someone who made a real difference.

I recently attended a course at “The School of Life“, in London, UK. This course was called “How To Make A Difference”. It cost £30 and featured wine, sandwiches, and cake along with a couple of hours of lecturing and group activity. It unfortunately taught me nothing new, and in fact made me feel ashamed to be there: what kind of privileged middle-class jerk was I, attending a class on how to make a difference, when I know full well what to do? When I know full well what those who are not in my elevated position have to do just to carve out a tiny bit of space for themselves?

It didn’t help that the examples of the “changemakers” in this “class” (oh yeah, I am using quotes very recklessly and lazily!) presented were 98% white males, negating long and powerful histories of activism around the world by, uh, everyone else.

I pointed out this terrible omission to the teacher, and so my duty to “The School of Life” is done.

Instead of writing angry screeds to Alain de Botton (heavily involved in the establishment of said “school”), or overly angry screeds here (I could go into much further detail), I decided I’ll write something cursory here about my experience, as a kind of word to the wise to my friends and associates, and hold my own event here in Amsterdam, on How To Make A Real Difference. (Hat tip to Alex for putting this idea in my head).

Stay tuned for details on this event.

10/06/2010 update: Alain de Botton himself has been in touch to discuss my concerns in depth. Kudos to Alain and the School for being very attentive to my feedback.