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Waiting on the World to Change: The genius of John Mayer

Updated on January 12, 2011

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends fourth a tiny ripple of hope...and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."   --Robert F. Kennedy

When I first heard this John Mayer song, “Waiting on the World to Change,” I knew this was a song of great importance. In fact, I would have to argue that it is one of the most important songs in our current time period.

It is quite easy for us to rant and rave that the world is going to hell, yet most will do nothing to change it.

We assume someone else will take care of the matter.

In psychology, this is referred to as “diffusion of responsibility. “

For example, if a person is being assaulted by someone, and there is a group of 20 or so people nearby, there is a strong chance that no one will step up and help.

Why is that? Wouldn’t everyone rush up and save that person?

The reason that no one would help is because everyone is thinking that someone else will help out. We also have to consider fear. People don’t want to get hurt. There is also the possibility that person believes that he or she will make matters worse.

Now, let’s take a look at what John Mayer has to say about “Waiting on the World to Change.” Here’s the first verse:

“Me and all my friends

We’re all misunderstood

They say we stand for nothing and

There’s no way we ever could”

We live in a different dynamic than the 1960’s. It was quite common for people to take a stand in something they believed in during that time period. However, in our current time, the majority of people feel that they cannot make a difference. It is quite common for people to say:

“What can I do? I am only one person.”

They forget that our world has been changed by individuals, such as Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, the Buddha, Mother Teresa, and so on. Therefore, it is not true that we cannot make a difference. Let’s continue with the first verse:

“Now we see everything that’s going wrong

With the world and those that lead it

We just feel like we don’t have the means

To rise above and beat it”

It is clear that John sees the problems in our society, yet there is a force that is stopping us. Could this force be fear? Take a look at the line again: “We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it.” Somehow, we have lost our fighting spirit. We have succumbed to the philosophy:

“I am powerless.”

Is that true? Of course not, we are powerful creators that have the potential for greatness. Let’s move onto the chorus:

“So we keep waiting

Waiting for the world to change

We keep on waiting

Waiting for the world to change

It’s hard to beat the system

When we’re standing at a distance

So we keep waiting

Waiting on the world to change”

In the chorus, we see John clearly stating that we are waiting for someone else to change the world. Why? John says that “It’s hard to beat the system when we’re standing at a distance.”

To me it is clear that we can’t beat the system when we are running from it.

In 1989, when Exxon Valdez spilled millions of gallons of crude oil in Alaska's coast, the rock group Midnight Oil did their part in trying to beat the system.

This group played a concert in front of Exxon’s headquarters on May 30, 1990. They had a banner on a truck that read:

“Midnight Oil makes you dance, Exxon Oil makes us sick.”

This is a rock group with a heart of steel. They looked out for the little guys that were being taken advantage by the system. Let’s move on. Let’s take a look at the second verse:

“Now if we had the power

To bring our neighbors home from war

They would have never missed a Christmas

No more ribbons on their door

And when you trust your television

What you get is what you got

Cause when they own the information, oh

They can bend it all they want”

In this second verse, we see compassion in John’s eyes. He believes the soldiers should never miss a Christmas. They should be with their families.

However, is John trying to tell us more? Let’s take a close look at the last four lines of this verse:

“And when you trust your television

What you get is what you got

Cause when they own the information, oh

They can bend it all they want.”

I believe this part of the song is extremely important. If you own the television station, you can control what is told and not told. However, most people take what they hear on TV as absolute gospel.

It must be true; they said so.

Don’t be that naïve. Do your own research? Check out other sources. People don’t realize that the German people were duped by the Nazis. We should learn from history, not make the same mistakes.

"The media, I think, is playing the role of Seven Macaw to keep people stuck in fear, so they can't move forward." --John Major Jenkins

Let’s take a look at the 5th and 6th line of the second verse:

“It’s not that we don’t care,

We just know that the fight ain’t fair”

I think we now understand why “changing the world” is not an easy task. It is because the system makes the rules. They control the flow of information.

Again, we do not have to listen to their information. There are alternative sources to get our information. We do not have to sink to their level and play their games. God has given us all the tools to change our world for the better. Let’s move on to the 4th line, 3rd part, in the second chorus:

“One day our generation

Is gonna rule the population

So we keep waiting

Waiting on the world to change”

We have to ask ourselves this very important question:

Is this the world I want to leave for my children?

I think the answer is obvious: We cannot afford to wait for the world to change. We have to be the change we wish to see!

If we do not change the world, who will?


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    • Terry27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Terry Fatland 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Cari for nice comment. Many individuals have forgotten that they have a lot of power. Each one of us can make a huge difference in the world. However, many of us get caught up in the drama. Others are distracted by all the media's distractions. Then, there are those that have to have all the toys in the world to win. What happened to noticing the beauty of nature? Why should we wait for the world to change? Let's be the change we wish to see in the world! Thanks, Cari, for sharing your thoughts.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That was a great article. I love the song. Changing the world seems like a daunting task. I completely understand why people do not stand up and try to help. People in the 60s had more fighting spirit. Thank god they did, but we could use some of that fighting spirit right now.


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