Leverage

There is a concept in the systems field called “leverage.” Leverage is the part of a system where a small change has the largest potential to impact the whole. As a simple example, if a person treats the symptoms of an infection with pain killers, the state of the infection doesn’t really change much; there is little change in the whole system. However, if a person treats an infection with antibiotics, not only does the state of the infection change dramatically, but the symptoms of the infection go away as well; there is large change in the whole system. The leverage in that example is in the infection, not in the symptoms of the infection. Leverage points are rarely in the place that seems most obvious.

Part of the purpose of this change.org site is to create change. Change in individual perspectives and paradigm. Change toward less assumptions, toward more respect, toward a better understanding. Change on a public, universal level in policy that supports respect, opportunity, equality, and quality of life. Discussion, action, the social-sharing-medium of the Internet.

But I do wonder sometimes–where, really, is the leverage? If we want public attitudes toward autism to shift away from medical-deficit models and toward social-strength models, if we want public perception of autism issues to be as human rights issues, then where is the greatest point of impact? The media? The government? Each other?

How much leverage is there in blog posts? In the discussion that comes from blog posts?

How much leverage in emailing a legislator, or a public figure?

How much leverage is there in one single person perceiving old things in new ways, and telling all their friends? And starting a blog of their own?

How much leverage in the things that exist outside of this blog, outside of the blogosphere, outside of the Internet?

How many impact points exist beyond our interactions here, ways to get involved, ways to speak out, ways to demonstrate? In passing out autistic-positive flyers at events that would disparage us, in being visible, in demanding to be regarded? In attending town hall meetings, in getting involved in local policy making, in not letting policy makers get away with ignoring us, autistic people, in policy decisions about us, that directly affect us? In getting involved in research that is good for us rather than bad for us, in working with cross-disability self-advocacy groups and building on the ground work that came before us, in thinking critically about what comes through the media? In simply standing up to an abuser and refusing to take it, in any way, even just once?

How many leverage points are there?

Social systems are huge and slow, they have a lot of inertia, and take a long time to change. But if we find the right leverage points and push, what can we accomplish? How much have we accomplished already?