When I first met people in the Intactivist movement, many gave me advice on how to avoid every unnecessary medical intervention if I had my baby in the hospital. It was as if they expected us to be in the hospital, but never participate in that system. At the same time, I met many people in the natural birth world, who had their baby at home. Many had never even thought about circumcision, but immediately understood the issue and knew they would keep their child intact when they heard about it.
When activists try to convince people to keep their child whole in the hospital system, they are actually making a bigger ask than they would be if they just told people to ditch the system entirely and have a home birth. It is easier to persuade someone into home birth than to maintain absolute faith in the medical system while questioning one tenet of that system. Having a natural hospital birth requires resisting a multitude of pressures and tricks that a supportive environment does not. The bigger change is actually the easier one.
This principle is true of so many changes. It is easier to maintain a diet by throwing out all the unhealthy food in your house than to try to order the “healthy” item during regular visits to fast food joints. It’s easier to get rich by starting a business than by staying at a low-paying job but continually asking your boss for a raise. It is easier to have a clean space by using the Marie Kondo method once to get rid of every possession you no longer need than to continually organize the same unwanted junk.
Often, people do not make the change they want because the change is too small. For example, there is a lot of debate in the United States over what is taught in schools. Changing what is taught in schools requires navigating a challenging bureaucracy with entrenched political resistance. Homeschooling is actually the easier option. If you homeschool, you have complete control over the curriculum and solve all the other problems compulsory schooling causes. Changing the entire environment is easier than trying to change one aspect of it.
This principle is counterintuitive. After all, if we just want one small change, shouldn’t that be easier than completely upending the whole system? The problem is that the thing we want to change is often a natural outcome of the system we are participating in. For example, unnecessary medical interventions are the natural outcome of a for-profit medical system. Removing a profit center from the hospital sales funnel requires pushing up against a fundamental aspect of the system. It is easier to consciously change those core aspects of a system than to unconsciously push against them while still under their domain.
This principle applies to political change as well. It is easier to change the whole system than just change one thing within that system. Existing political systems are the way they are for a reason. Certain people already hold power. Rather than bargaining with people whose fundamental interests are aligned against yours, it might be easier to remove their power entirely. Revolution is easier than reform.
Bigger changes are more motivating. A call for revolution is more inspiring than a call for minor tinkering. Anyone who has ever put off household chores in favor of exciting projects understands this principle. We want to do big things. Thankfully, you can. It could actually be easier to change everything than one thing. If you’ve been trying to make a small change and struggling, ask yourself: What would happen if I tried to make an even bigger one instead?
Sometimes slightly bigger changes can have a greater effect.
Take, for instance, your example of home birth.
What would be better, going with the additional risk of a home birth to both mother and baby, or the inconvenience and perhaps embarrassment of insisting that the hospital and the obstetrician that your son MUST NOT BE CIRCUMCISED?
I suggest that the latter would have the greater effect.