“It’s no good believing in somebody else
If you can’t believe in yourself
You give them the reason to take all the power and wealth”
(“Turn It Up” – Alan Parsons Project)
There is a very strange paradox of power about today.
Never before has such a large part of humanity lived so well, and in conditions that make it possible – if not essential – for those of us like that to make good use of the power we have been given. It’s not all good, after all.
Many people still live in less-than-ideal conditions. Even in “affluence,” the idea of jobs for life, chosen and determined career paths, even the very stability of our ecological contexts (from resource availability via food security to climate) are all uncertain.
Yet, with only a smartphone and a data plan, or a computer in an internet café, you could conceivably stir up a revolution, learn just about anything, and create a global business.
At the same time, though, there is such a disregard for learning, such a level of complaint about locked-in systems, things being just the way they are and totally outside of our influence, that the technology often ends up being used as toys rather than tools.
Those obviously with power and wealth continue their games trying to acquire more power and wealth; those without either try to join them or distract themselves in the illusion of a life well-lived, with parties and fun, or with kids and struggling in two jobs.
All the knowledge we would have devolves into cannon fodder for intellectual battles trying to change everyone’s consciousness to one realization, to argue endlessly about “the” solution – never realizing that change better not just be said, but made, in a plethora of solutions fitting into their respective, relevant contexts.
The paradox is all the more striking because matters such as “the economy”, “the environment”, “sustainability”… all seem so complicated.
It leaves an individual person feeling totally powerless. Denial and small rearguard actions ensue: at least I donate money (which is probably part of the problem), recycle, buy “green” products.
The more you learn, the less influence and even understanding you may seem to have. Then, we end with the older generation of environmentally-concerned people fawning over the young “greens,” proclaiming how they will change the world – and thereby giving away their own power and absolving themselves of any responsibility to themselves get to work – with their hands and brains, not just in thought and speech – and change things.
The feeling of powerlessness only lasts until you get to action, in practical ways, with your own hands and for and in your own life, though.
It is easily the craziest point about this paradox that the skills first needed to be re-learnt are those that have always been at the very foundation of decent human lives: surviving and thriving by growing and cooking food, taking care of one’s own health and household…
The more you do and master, and especially in practical skills and looking to make a living doing better, the more you see your own power. The knowledge of what needs to be done then combines with the ability to do something, and chances become visible.
Yes, it is not all you alone. Building change requires communities and citizens. It will also not change everything at once – but nothing ever will (not for the better, anyways).
Still, why complain about corporations selling too much “junk” – while buying it yourself rather than learning to make “good”? It will at least give you yourself some satisfaction, on several levels at once, and it just may change your local community, or your virtual circles, or create a new, more sensible market.
Why only occupy spaces in protest when you can also create the change you want, not just in the rhetoric, but also in the ways that lives are lived?
We don’t, after all, need *the* change – we need *to* change.
This is an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while, a realization I’m working on instituting ever more in my own life. It came to a head, for this post, through The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “The Future of American Colleges May Lie, Literally, in Students’ Hands”
I encourage you to read that, and think about practical things you could do.
Myself, I’ve been embarking on more practical things, and a focus on presenting those connections, partly here, partly on my more personally-oriented blog at www.zhangschmidt.com… More to come