Control of the means of force, whether in the police or a militia, is power at its most primal.
Money creates the ability to buy results and to buy almost any other kind of power.
This is the use of law and bureaucracy to compel people to do or not do certain things.
They operate in a softer way, peer to peer.
They can certainly make people change behavior and even change laws.
An idea can generate boundless mounts of power if it motivates enough people to change their thinking and actions.
A vocal mass of people creates power by expressing collective intensity of interest.
And by asserting legitimacy.
POWER IS NEVER STATIC
It’s always either accumulating or decaying in a civic arena. So, if you aren’t taking action, you’re being acted upon.
POWER IS LIKE WATER
It flows like a current through everyday life. Politics is the work of harnessing that flow in a direction you prefer. Policymaking is an effort to freeze and perpetuate a particular flow of power.
Power begets more power, and so does powerlessness. The only thing that keeps law number three from leading to a situation where only one person has all the power is how we apply laws one and two. What rules do we set up so that a few people don’t accumulate too much power, and so that they can’t enshrine their privilege in policy?
That’s the question of democracy.
Your challenge is to learn how to read power and write power. To read power means to pay attention to as many texts of power as you can.
I mean seeing society as a set of texts. Don’t like how things are in your campus or city or country? Map out who has what kind of power, arrayed in what systems.
Understand why it turned out this way, who’s made it so, and who wants to keep it so.
Study the strategies others in such situations used: frontal attack or indirection, coalitions or charismatic authority. Read so you may write.
To write power requires first that you believe you have the right to write, to be an author of change. You do.
As with any kind of writing, you learn to express yourself, speak up in a voice that’s authentic. Organize your ideas, then organize other people.
Practice consensus building. Practice conflict.
As with writing, it’s all about practice.
Every day you have a chance to practice, in your neighborhood and beyond.
- Set objectives
- Then bigger ones
- Watch the patterns
- See what works
Do you want power to benefit everyone or only you?
Are your purposes pro-social or anti-social?