The Through-Line in My Writing

Micah Sifry
4 min readNov 1, 2021
(The Croton Aqueduct Trail, November 2015; author photo)

“What is to be done?” I think about this question a lot. Not what is to be said, but done. A lot of writing about the contemporary world focuses on telling us how bad a problem is, or who’s at fault. OK, yes: the world is broken, politicians are often corrupted, the crises of inequality, racism and climate are intensifying. But what is to be done about that? Changing consciousness is indeed part of changing the world, but movements for change have never succeeded solely by changing consciousness, or insisting that everyone share the same world view before we act together.

People are messy, imperfect, confused, distracted and often overworked. And yet, we have often managed to come together in effective ways to enact real change. Always, at the core of that process of effective change is one word: organizing, the process by which people turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want. Movements for change do not happen spontaneously; they are organized. Other things that look like movements, like protests or popular hashtags, do often happen spontaneously, but they almost always fail.

And being organized isn’t a guarantee of success. Organizations have many of their own challenges and pitfalls. Many develop into bureaucracies that move slowly and stifle creativity. Many become more focused on sustaining themselves as well-known…