Power, responsibility, movements and change

Continuing the discussion from Small initiatives/ideas all add up to big changes:

I’ve created this new thread to branch off into a couple of topics I suspect we might want to delve into further. :slight_smile:

Anna-Marie, I resonate strongly with this point you raised. The frustration you describe is something I feel too, not least when confronted with arguments about how people who want to bring about system change are in some way hypocritical because they eat meat or take a flight or drive a petrol/diesel car or use a plastic water bottle … and so on, and on and on, because the list of small individual actions we can supposedly take is endless.

What I see, first and foremost, when I look at such arguments is a fundamental misapprehension of power, and in particular, power within systems. It’s so easy to forget that we are part of the system, that it isn’t something ‘out there’, separate from us. (Even if I don’t drive, in order to survive within this system, I rely on others who do. Pointing my finger at them doesn’t help anyone.)

Intuitively, we know that in some fundamental ways, a large business or an elected national government can wield more power than any one person. They have more money, more of a platform, more ‘formal power’ to write laws and ‘control’ other people, often by a factor of millions or even billions.

However. What tends to not be so intuitively obvious is the fact that our existing businesses and governments are effectively trapped just as stickily and just as much in their behaviours within our socioeconomic system as each of us are as individuals, if not more so. One nation’s government is rarely in a position to remove subsidies from their businesses, for example, because doing so would almost always either make the business leave the country for somewhere more profitable (taking their taxes and jobs with them), or make the business uncompetitive and fail. Businesses themselves are in the same dilemma. If other businesses are externalising costs onto society in some way, they have to as well or they fail to compete.

So, yes, I very much agree that we need to keep awareness of the sense of frustration people feel as we design these initiatives. I also think that as many of us as possible need to remain aware that businesses and governments typically have even less power to change the system than we do as individuals and fluid communities, no matter how much responsibility we think they should take or how much money they’ve managed to collect using the small number of ‘competencies’ they have available to them. Personally, I find it helps to see those ‘collective entities’ as big lumbering clumsy babies. They’ve learned to spoon food into their own mouths … mostly … but not much more than that. :wink: Expecting them to solve complex wicked problems such as the ones we’re facing is (frankly) suicidal. (By the way, I know you’re not saying that Anna-Marie … I just wanted to take the opportunity here to expand on your point!)

What excites me most about the concept of libraries of things is that it offers an alternative system for people to use to ‘unstick’ themselves a bit from Game A. It is not perfect or a complete solution but it is empowering and heading in the right direction.

Well said! :slight_smile:

United/concentrated focus generates people power like nothing else.

While I think that this time the establishment itself needs to be reconsidered (not just fought against), and we need to redesign our stories about initial ‘pre-distribution’ of resources, rather than relying on re-distribution of them, the same general principle of focusing on what we have in common rather than our differences still applies.

Yes! :grin: Now if only we could find a way to collectively harness and focus as much constructive/creative energy (‘towards’ a goal) as we do destructive/obstructive energy (‘against’ something we don’t like, such as fracking), we’d have our wicked problems under control in no time!

Good point. That’s a good reminder when I find myself pointing fingers (what?? Yes, it happens :wink:)

Thank you. I haven’t been seeing it like this at all. I’ve been seeing people taking advantage of a system flaw (some people/organisations definitely do. Like Amazon refusing to pay their rightful amount of tax). But you’re absolutely right, there is many inherent traps within our current systems for organisations and businesses within it.

Hmm, I’m just wondering if this feels true for me :thinking: I’m not sure it does in its entirety. Yes, I can see that many small businesses would have difficulties changing how they do business in a certain system. But it seems to me that many big businesses use their power and wealth to affect governing decisions, decisions which then afford them advantages (and more power and wealth; so it cycles upwards). I can see definitely that many governments are restrained by the system they’re in (their voters desires; what they inherit when they come into government (systemic or attitudinal); what they are legally allowed to do etc.) But then many governing bodies/individuals seem (to me) to take advantage of the system they’re in. Am I missing something?

Well … I think you’re absolutely right in your observation that businesses and governments take advantage of the system they’re in. That’s how they compete. If they stopped doing it, they wouldn’t be competitive. :slight_smile: And that’s why I say they’re trapped by the system - they’re in it, part of it, every bit as much as individual actors are and often more so because unlike individual human beings, they don’t have loving, empathic relationships to help them through tough times.

Edit: There are some small number of businesses (like Patagonia) that walk a bit of a fine line between competing in their niche and behaving as ethically as they can get away with, but that’s not a business model that would actually work for all businesses, particularly those that rely on selling to non-privileged people. (Patagonia items, for example, are comparatively expensive because they try to keep their supply chains reasonably clear of exploitation etc.)

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