On Circumvention

Discourse, futuretalk.co6 Comments

How do we resuscitate individual moral agency, create community structures that reflect community values, and gain the power to shape our own futures?

Big question, huh? But it has a simple answer: we Circumvent traditional power structures. Oh, but that’s just pompous rhetoric? Let me explain what I mean.

The first principle of Circumvention is we use local resources to meet local needs. What constitutes a local resource depends on the community and its needs. For example, if safety is identified as a community need, we know that traditional power structures offer police as the means of creating safety. But interacting with police has historically given the short end of the stick (or the blunt end, as it were) to people of color and other historically oppressed groups. It is very difficult for private citizens to hold police accountable, and even more difficult to push for any kind of helpful reform.

Now, let’s pause for a minute. Remember the twofold strategy for improving society? We have to mitigate harm and work to address root issues. That means that even though it is difficult to push for police reform, that is still an avenue we must pursue. We need to work to reduce racial profiling, mishandling of suspects with mental health concerns, and so many other instances of police wrongdoing. So do not think that while I am discussing Circumvention I mean that we neglect reform efforts. I only mean that we do not count on reform efforts to address the root problems.

Okay, resume. I know that, being a white male, any time I rely on the police or the criminal justice system, I am choosing a course of action that will likely perpetuate someone else’s oppression. Circumventing the police means figuring out what other resources a community can use to meet their safety need. This is not an absolute, ideology-driven solution. The second principle of Circumvention is that we use this strategy only to the extent that local resources can take over meeting the needs that were being met by traditional power structures.

In other words, we don’t Circumvent the police for the simple sake of doing so, or when doing so endangers our community. If we are Circumventing the traditional power structure of police to use local resources to meet our community’s safety need, but in doing so we create unsafe situations, then we are failing to Circumvent properly by ignoring the second principle. We Circumvent properly by choosing to increase safety without calling the police, insofar as we are able. When we do this, we will notice very important changes taking place:

1) We will gain power by focusing our activities around resources that we control.

2) Because we control these resources, we will be more connected to the decisions that affect our communities and individual community members will be empowered.

3) Because we are more connected to the people and processes around us, we will make our communities less fragmented. This will make the consequences of our actions more concrete and increase our individual moral agency.

Now, how do we actually Circumvent police by using local resources to create safe communities? How do we Circumvent Walmart to access affordable retail items without sustaining a huge, unscrupulous megacorporation? How do we Circumvent pop culture to explore more authentic art? How do we Circumvent failing schools to support our children’s educations?

I don’t have the answers yet. There will be plenty of brainstorming, research and case studies to follow. For now we just need to establish this theoretical framework and vocabulary for discussing Circumvention. With that in place, we can begin to inventory the resources that are available to us and start figuring out creative ways to use them in order to bypass traditional power structures.

SorenOn Circumvention

6 Comments on “On Circumvention”

  1. Kelsey

    This is absolutely fantastic. I completely agree with your section about our criminal justice system and I love the second to last paragraph because it hits on so many important issues that we are neglecting to address. The questions you ask are very critical and I appreciate the fact that you are actually posing them. Please keep posting because I thoroughly enjoy reading them.

  2. Ellington3

    So what you are suggesting is maybe some kind of moral co-op?
    This is nifty, my curiosity is piqued because I really want to see what you come up with! : )

  3. Ellington3

    Oh what I meant by a moral co-op is this it would be a collective of sorts. With people on the a committee all with one vote working towards the same goal. They the collective would all be morally and ethically responsible for the greater good of the their community and surrounding neighbours because they have a vested interest it making it a good place for all.
    I remember your one of your topics when you were talking about people doing things if their is a vested interest in it for them. If the vested intrest is a good and safe place to live for all, buy making that so then people’s lives, safety, property values improve then the by product of that would be a better place for all. : )
    I was thinking of a friend of my who lives in a co-op building in Toronto. They “own” their apartments and have a vested interest in it maintaining the property so a) the value does not go down and b) that the area looks good. If something needs to be done likes say the garden or the common room needs redoing they all have a say in it, I believe that it is different from say a condo board which is not made up of the owners of the various suites necessarily.

    I read what you were saying and that popped into my head. I hope that it makes a modicum of sense to you, and that it is not too bizarre or farfetched of an idea or reasoning. : )

    1. futuretalk

      Yeah I think the key, however we go about it, is to sort of defragment society. Anything that makes people interact more directly with one another, that lessens the steps between action and consequence, that brings authority closer to its constituency… these things strengthen our individual moral agency while allowing our communities to more directly reflect what we want for them. And that’s the goal of human community just as much as individual human life, isn’t it–self expression?

  4. Pingback: Values: the Gauge of Honesty « Future Talk

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