Asking power for power

Discourse, futuretalk.co4 Comments

If we survey the political movements that are active right now, we might at first appreciate the wide breadth of issues around which people are organizing. Upon close examination, however, we will be disappointed to discover that they are all using essentially the same tactic.

From radical Occupy protests, to the recall of Scott Walker, to the marriage equality movement, everybody is basically doing the same thing: asking power for power. Progressive politics in the United States is a one-trick pony: put pressure on the point of power until it becomes in its best interest to give in. Sure, a variety of methods are used to apply pressure, but the basic approach is always the same.

While this tactic is essential toward the goal of mitigating the ongoing harm caused by oppressive power structures, it will never solve the root problem of the unfair distribution of power. Asking power for power does not renegotiate the distribution of power, it only reinforces it. Considering also that petitioning existing structures involves participating in a fragmented environment where we suffer limits to our autonomy and moral agency, this strategy will never lay the foundation for the good society.

If we cannot ask power for power, then we must take power. This does not mean attacking the existing structures in order to siphon off enough power to overthrow them. It means skipping the revolution and getting started right now on the hard work of creating better communities. Rather than by petitioning or confronting the existing structures, we gain power by Circumventing them.

SorenAsking power for power

4 Comments on “Asking power for power”

  1. Leif

    Will you contrast “power over…” and “power to…”? I feel it is useful to re-conceptualize “power” as “capability”.

    Also, I don’t believe the later is in limited supply. Don’t we just need to use that which inherently possess.

    1. futuretalk

      In this post, I discuss power as the ability to control resources. From that understanding, I agree that power does not exist in a fixed amount such that we would necessarily need to steal power in order to gain power. That’s not exactly what I meant by “we must take power.” We are capable of increasing control over our communities’ resources and thereby increasing our power. This does not necessarily have to involve siphoning power from the larger structures, but indirectly it will involve a renegotiation of power as we rely more on local structures and less on institutions, because we are a resource to them.

      I hope that makes some sense, if not please let me know and I will try frame it in a better way.

  2. Ellington3

    How does one go about this?
    I just finished watching on the CBC’s The National a report about a group called “The Freemen”. They are akin to The Sovereign in the US.
    I know things have to change for the better for everyone, I want things to change for the better for everyone, but when I see these ‘fringe’ groups that are attempting to change and take power from the government by basically ignoring and discounting the government or the power base. I feel very skeptical and mistrusting of things like this.
    I do not know if you can watch the link, but i hope that you are able to.

    I want to understand, but how does one do this, these two groups that I mentioned seem to only attract and appeal to “people born in Canada and the US for they mention birth certificates” (for the most part white men).
    I want and would love to see something that is inclusive not another form of being exclusive for a one group.
    I know that you will and do give these things a lot of thought and I appreciate this!

    : )

    1. futuretalk

      My internet is crapping out and not loading that video right now but I’ll bookmark it and watch it soon.

      I think I know the kind of group you’re talking about. They think the government is forcing ideas on people, and since their own ideology conflicts with those ideas, they believe the government must be rejected or overthrown. Like the right-wing version of Black Bloc. Zealotry in all forms is dangerous.

      The government exists and interacting with it can result in the reduction of suffering, so there is no reason not to use it as an avenue toward bettering society. However, big governments operate in a fragmented landscape where individual moral agency and autonomy are diminished. This, combined with the inertia of oppression that has been institutionalized in and out of the government, make it impossible for conventional methods to produce true liberation for all peoples.

      In no way does this mean we need to attack or overthrow the government. That is actually a huge waste of time and very damaging. There are solutions we can implement right now that bypass the problems I just mentioned. And we can engage ourselves in those solutions while simultaneously engaging in conventional reform. We press the government and other parts of society in the right places to mitigate ongoing harm WHILE AT THE SAME TIME creating local structures that can meet our needs in an environment that is less fragmented. These local structures support individual moral agency and empower communities to shape themselves according to their own will.

      We have to do both.

      There are actually similarities to the program I advocate and Black Nationalism… except it’s more like The People’s Nationalism. But the idea is the same… oppressive power structures are not designed to facilitate our full integration because that would require a redistribution of power, and they are unwilling to let this happen. So we create our own local power structures where we are free to shake up traditional power relationships and create a community that empowers its members. Not sure if that makes sense, it’s definitely something I’ll have to discuss more and clarify in the future.

      Hope this response addressed your thoughts, if not, please let me know. I always appreciate your comments! Also, I’ll definitely be expanding on this idea of Circumvention very soon as it is the most important part of the agenda I am introducing.

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