We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why Power Is Not a Dirty Word

by Frances Moore Lappé from Energy Bulletin. Although supposedly originally sourced in Yes! Magazine, this version of her article is better.
In recent decades, a revolution in our understanding of human nature has produced evidence from neuroscience to anthropology that we have all the social “wiring” needed to make the turn toward life. It turns out we’ve evolved to take pleasure in and to need cooperation, empathy, fairness, and efficacy.

Then what is preventing us from moving toward the world that almost all of us want? My short answer is that we feel powerless. We feel powerless to act on what we know.

And what robs us of power?
Yes, there has been much encouraging research findings regarding human nature and it is necessary that we think about the implications of this research for social change. This article, while inspirational, suggests mostly conventional methods to bring about social change.
...we can each press our representatives to get on board. We can make campaign finance reform a sexy, compelling issue, knowing it’s needed to move on everything from serious climate-change legislation to remaking our banking system.
If the history of the US in the past 50 years has taught anything at all, it is the futility of working through the existing political system. That is why people feel powerless. We must come up with alternative methods if we are to accomplish anything, and especially to rid ourselves of this sense of powerlessness. 

The Simpler Way model at the top right of this blog offers some constructive ideas, but we need many more. We need many more people working on alternative ideas and methods in order to harness our new understandings of human nature to the critical task of changing our societies whose ruling classes seem hell-bent on letting capitalism run us off the cliffs of climate change and environmental degradation.