Skip to main content

Reverberation: power from the personal to the global


Whatever we value most in life is more than just a cause for celebration, it can lead us to the tools of our collective power, as long as that power is life affirming. But using any tool requires some skill and the more we use it the more skilled we will become.

The Toolbox

Interrogation – who benefits?

Every issue, change, policy, initiative, ideology must interrogate its own value by asking who benefits by this? And if it doesn't those who are affected by it must.

Naming, Unmasking, Engaging:

In his column published in the Guardian, George Monbiot quotes Walter Wink ... "challenging a dominant system requires a three-part process: naming the powers, unmasking the powers, engaging the powers."

I would extend this exercise to all social interactions from family to neighbourhood to community to national. To assume that social relationships do not use power can lead us blithely into relationships where power is abused. Domestic violence certainly puts a strain on challenging power beyond the home. Abusive power in community undoes benefit of community.

Progressive Thinking:

In a Straight Goods article, George Lakoff writes "a robust public is necessary for private success, about all that the public gives us, about the benefits of health, about a Market for All not a Greed Market, about regulation as protection, about revenue and investment". These are all assets our ancestors gave their lives for. Lakoff warns against accepting systems that are not in our best interests. Such as those that allow corporations to get rich by keeping wages low. There is nothing morally right about centralized power that enables oppression, because it always seeks to punish not the causes but the victims of it.

Civil Society:

Yes this gives the individual the power to move freely in the city. Marilyn Hamilton writes that civil society occupies "the We and Heart of the Integral City . . . the pulse of cooperatives, credit unions, foundations, institutes, not-for-profits, NGO’s, social enterprises and other agencies who invest in cultural and social capital". We give and take in society. We have a responsibility to it and gain protections from it.


Education:

I am talking about more than certificates and accreditation here – of course those enable us more choice in our future. But I am talking about the lifelong learning that enables us to participate in systems of power that arise from our knowing and our imaginations. In order to do this we have to let go of the beliefs that comfort us. As the Bible says "the truth shall set you free". But first it will make you miserable as you read the horrors that humankind has imposed on its earthly home.

Contraction:

Every outward act will return.  Whatever we do to others will be done to us. Whatever we send out we will bring back.

In an interview with Michael Moore, Chris Hedges explains the system that currently rules the planet – unfettered capitalism, turns everything into a commodity, even human beings. It exploits and extracts the essence until it is emptied of itself, exhausted and destroyed.  Built into capitalism is a self-destructive ideology that deeply disrupts societies. Imperialism is a disease and the tyranny it imposes is also imposed on itself.

Here then is the warning we must never forget as we struggle to create a better world – we are in the throws of a "giddy intoxication" of an illusion that we can impose our will on the planet; and in the process, we have set in motion the final death of our unborn seeds.

The difference between Hedges, Moore, and myself – is that (I believe) the cause is not capitalism, communism, fascism, or religious fundamentalism – the cause is unfettered power.

We can use our power without harming or controlling. We may send out our desires and receive our limitations. We may work on hope and be discouraged. We may bring peace and be killed for it. We may knit garments of justice and watch them unravel. But work on what sustains life, no matter how futile it may seem, is the natural power we have been given.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task