(To be published in the Chapel Hill Herald Sun week of 11-26-07)

Acquieit qui tuetor: He obtains, who maintains
By Lauren Knapp-Resnik

A phone customer service rep chimed back my confirmation number:  “C - as in ‘Change!’” she said cheerfully. Well, that’s a jump from “Alfa, Bravo, Charlie”, I thought. Another anomaly was that this was one of the most buoyant phone reps I had ever spoken to. She could have sold the idea of change to the most unmovable and obdurate with her affability. Afterwards, I caught myself humming “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down…”

Everywhere, we hear “Change is good”. Corporations must be malleable, in order for growth there must be flexibility, and things (and people) must have a justifiable reason to be interchangeable. That world peace has not yet been reached seems to be a grand, underlying theme for change since wars have not ceased since the dawn of time, and in its wake, the turbulent tide of inevitable globalization keeps splashing us in the face every morning. 

I cannot deny that life is all about change. But isn’t that just a matter of focus? What if I said life was not about change, but that it is about recognizing those things in life that do not change? Then, over a period of time the phrase “Life is all about immovability”, most likely once chanted by staunch and trudging Romans, would be commonplace. Isn’t that after all what is behind the adage, ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose - the more things change, the more they stay the same’? The paradigm of change has in itself changed.

The phrase “Time for a change” might traditionally imply that a person is allowed to choose to change, that they have the freedom and volition to make a step in their life on their own accord, on their own terms. It would seem this particular aspect of change is the bedrock of America . Yet it seems today’s connotation of this phrase conjures up images of ominous new managers, demolition of old buildings, firings, mom and pop businesses snuffed out by large competitors, divorces – in essence losing status of some kind. If this is the case, why would you want to herald such transformations? The medicine and the spoonful of sugar flashes through my mind. Have you noticed that the rare, endangered species of traditional methods or old-fashioned values of courtesy, politeness and respect are golden because they are such constants? These keep us human.

I keep hearing the chant America wants change. What does that mean? I worry it might entail further dehumanization. I hypothesize that it must hover around the inability to accept that we are an imperfect nation, an accusation instead that we are just wrong, that a great number of people are not getting their needs met. There is massive dissatisfaction. The magic band-aid seems to be the presidential candidate who most vehemently promises “change”. 

But how can everyone be going on about change if it’s already happening at breakneck speed?  Technology changes so quickly that we need to replace that laptop or software as soon as we turn around. We’re panting trying to keep up, all the while gulping down spoonfuls of grinning “Change!”  I philosophize that perhaps a happier chant might be “Moderation!” or “Slow down!” Extremists might even consider, “Freeze!”

The fact that everyone keeps dying and being born, getting sick, switching their hair colors, names, addresses, attitudes, company policies, loyalties, and interest rates in itself constitutes the time worn definition of change. Even football players jump around to other teams like hot potatoes. On top of these, modernization has allowed us to pile a multiplicity of other modifications which in turn seem to give credence to changing practices over all of life. Because we can zip around with technology, some feel that it should be just as easy to switch the importance of things which have existed for eons, like Christmas, reprimanding children, or even patriotism.

Change is inevitable. But “The power of change” and “The power of maintenance” are equally as valid. Not a lot thought goes into short-term or long-term consequences of our decision to make alterations. It could be some things do not necessarily have to change as we think they should. There exists the concept of a slowing down the speed of change, so that we can better recognize the human faces amid the thick haze of TV, Ipods, video games, cell phones, internet, and commuting, in hopes of making us realize what we actually have and who we are.