Scrutinizing the Relationship between Collective Power And Radical Societal Change Essay

I always accept as true the adage which expresses that change, that is, change for the better must always begin from the individual who wishes to initiate the change or advancement.  Indeed, it is not enough that one plainly speaks about change.  It is not enough that one merely stays at the sidelines and directs others to execute the change he desires.  One must start with himself.  I cannot expect to bring about the development I desire if I myself do not possess the point of view which radical change requires.  The point of view that an individual must possess in order to make a radical or far-reaching change is that of “it begins with me” attitude, and with this mind-set, I become compliant with the truth that my attitude as a human being has to be improved first and foremost if I desire to improve the society where I belong.  In other words, I must first undertake a moral reconstruction in order for me to develop into a good individual if I wish to change the society I belong from being bad to good or from being inhuman to compassionate.  The “it begins with me” mind-set must be coupled with the concept of combined power.  The combined power of individuals is capable of bringing about lasting beneficial social change.  Radical societal change is a process by which the evils of society particularly the political system and manner of governance manifest in that society are being permanently eradicated in order to advance the welfare of its people.  Changing society for the better must be done through the collective efforts of various individuals that unify in order to bring out the best in each one of them.

Change or advancement can be fulfilled even without being in authority.  Altering the social order without necessarily taking power means that we have to initiate such change in a manner that is within our personal capabilities and we must not consider the thought that the effort to change the world is an effort that is centred on the state and on taking state power.  Power is a societal power because what a person does is always dependent on what other persons do.  Nevertheless, with the introduction of capitalism, this current of doing has been shattered (Holloway, 2004:1).  As an overriding means of production, capitalism makes individuals feel separated from society and the concept that humans are innovative is then eliminated because in capitalism, we observe the reality of materialism, divergence and injustices as our everyday realism (Bogardus, 2010).  The three components to the idealist notion, namely, Existence of private property, Division of labour and Market exchange depict the separation that we face in our every day working conditions (Bogardus, 2010).  If we analyze further, we can visibly see the connection between separation and end result of our labour, “where our creations are a reflection of who we are or at least to an extent”.  Nevertheless, the fruits of our labour do not belong to us.  As a consequence, we are alienated in the process, from ourselves, the product itself, and from others (Bogardus, 2010).  Capitalism has been introduced to us by the state, however, “all beliefs are biased, positioned, and hold blind spots” (Bogardus, 2010:2).  “We need to dissect the material that is being fed to us by people of authority or the media and really critically analyze it at a much deeper level.  We should never just blindly accept someone else’s perspective and we need to form our own independent or original thoughts (Bogardus, 2010:2).  “Therefore, I believe that it is our duty to challenge ourselves by questioning our thoughts from different angles and we should become fully aware of any personal biases that we may have in order to form a less biased and more accurate view, regarding any topic” (Bogardus, 2010:2).

Capitalism and similar state-initiated or state-supported manners of domination has to be diminished, if not, totally eradicated.  We need a fundamental renovation of society and it is apparent that based on what occurred during the previous years, our efforts to transform society through the state has not been successful.  It is imperative to believe that societal renovation to bring about the betterment of the lives of the people is a practice of continually inquiring, a process of leaving one’s comfort zone and a process of linking people in a faction of self-determination (Holloway, 2004:2).  A society that is self-determining and is characterized by freedom and dignity of its people is a perfect society and this can be achieved if the fundamental societal change comes from the people belonging to such social order and not through the state (Holloway, 2004:3).  The drive for social transformation must come from the people through their collective power.

Collective power characterizes unity of individuals towards a common objective.  “It struggles to avoid taking power, seeking instead to shatter it into little pieces, to share it amongst ourselves, to open up spaces where everyone can develop the power to create, and to destroy the power that dominates” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).  There must be radical social change and we are knowledgeable of this and aspire more and more insistently as we see the devastation and misery brought by capitalism surrounding every angle of our lives.  We anxiously need a new politics, but it is no longer the politics of the tightened fist, the strike of power.  “Ours is the politics of interlaced fingers, a politics that develops when the “I” and the “you” come together as “we,” when people clasp their hands, warm palms touching, fingers woven together, and build a rebellion that deeply interconnects us, a rebellion of relationships which embraces differences, a rebellion that desires to share rather than to take power” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).  The Zapatistas movement had developed into an immense movement with devotees from all over the globe sharing a transmittable notion: that power is about asserting dignity, about seizing back control of our communities, and not about having a position in government.  “Power is not a tool.  It’s not a thing that one person or a group can wield in isolation.  Rather, power is a process that is deeply embedded in a complex set of social relationships” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).  Collective power is “power to” and as differentiated from “power over”, “power to” is power that influences certain matters in our lives.  It is not power that commands other persons to do things for us, but power which makes possible our own actions.  It is empowerment, and it pours without limitations, fabricates relations, unfastens areas for possibilities and allows others to expand their own “power to”.  “It is the power to create that radiates from direct democracy and direct action, the productive power that flows between the groups and individuals that make up the network of movement of movements.  Bring power closer to home, reduce the distance between decision-making and those the decisions affect – this is the demand that resonates from the valleys of Narmada to the plains of Ecuador, from the squatted European social centers to the spokes councils of Seattle, from the township meetings in Durban to the neighbourhood assemblies of Buenos Aires.  The movement of movements demands power that is not on paper, which is not abstract or far away, but exercised in our streets, our land, and our lives” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).  The finest approach to visualize power, in all its varieties, is to assume it to be like water.  When it is permitted to flow among us it is “power to,” the power that cherishes, the abundant flow that makes it achievable.  When it solidifies or stands still in one locale – “in leaders, governments, distant institutions, vanguards, and committees – it becomes “power over”: the power that prevents our ability to refuse what is and decays our ability to create what could be” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).  The Zapatistas discovered the pain of the society as a result from abuses of “power over”: “the poverty, the hunger, and the constant threat of harassment by the authorities or the ‘white guards’, the unnecessary deaths from curable diseases”.  When questioned in a dialogue which demise had distressed him most, Marcos told how a little girl, Paticha (her way of saying Patricia), had departed this life in his arms in a village.  She had a fever and there was no medication in the community that could help to lower her temperature.  And that went on a number of times; “it was so everyday, so everyday that those births are not even taken into account and from such experiences arose the conviction that revolution was something that the Zapatistas owed to their children: ‘we, their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and sisters, did not want to bear any more the guilt of doing nothing for our children” (Holloway, 1997).  The most important message that we learned from the native people or the Zapatistas is that we have to know how to listen.  “Learning to listen meant incorporating new perspectives and new concepts into their theory.  Learning to listen meant learning to talk as well, not just explaining things in a different way but thinking them in a different way”(Holloway, 1997).  Learning to listen manifests unity of individuals, despite their diversities “in order to work together as a team to keep a balance between resistance and reconstruction, to be able to reach a common ground on matters” (Notes From Nowhere collective, 2004).

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Charles Dickens, in his narrative entitled, “A Christmas Carol” yearns to execute transformation in a creative fashion and attacked the inhuman and Poor laws of his country England which were created by leaders who do not know how to listen.  The central character of the narrative is named Ebenezer Scrooge.  All his life, Scrooge has been living a self-centered life.  He has a “lust for money which eclipses his ability to love another”.  He is quite simply a disgusting creature.  With the help of three spirits, Scrooge was led into an expedition of his various life events relating to Christmas and to his eventual death.  The objective is to alter the ghastly attitude of Scrooge not only towards Christmas, but more importantly towards the poor.  The last spirit illustrated Scrooge of the gloom that will surround his death and how others did not really care much about his death.  This detail led Scrooge to plead the ghost to change his destiny and promises to abandon his thoughtless, greedy attitude and to respect Christmas with all his heart.  As time flies by, he remains true to his pledge and respects Christmas with all his heart: he considers Tiny Tim as if he was his own son, provides sumptuous endowments for the underprivileged, and treats his fellow individuals with thoughtfulness, benevolence, and love (SparkNotes Editors, 2010:1).  An essential point of the narrative and corresponding to the more superficial premise of moral recovery lays an insightful political attack.  Dickens points at the Poor Laws then managing the underclass of Victorian England.  He shows the imperfections of the unjust system of government that to all intents and purposes confines the underclass to life in prison or in a workhouse (SparkNotes Editors, 2010:3).

When A Christmas Carol was printed, England had particularly rigid laws in managing the payment of debts and the proviso of indigence. “These draconian rules forced many poor people into prisons and provisional workhouses. At the same time, many prominent politicians and theorists were attempting to justify these conditions with arguments designed to de-legitimize the rights of the underclass, a move that further hindered the ability of the poor to affect the governing of their own society” (SparkNotes Editors, 2010:5).  Dickens was principally dismayed with the write-ups of an economist named Thomas Robert Malthus.  Malthus is a “wealthy man, who argued in his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) that population growth would always outpace food supply resulting in unavoidable and catastrophic poverty and starvation”.  In his booklet ‘The Crisis,’ Malthus gives support to the Poor Laws and the workhouses, stating that any man incapable of sustaining himself does not have the right to live, much less partake in the improvement of humanity.  The Cratchits in the story are Dickens’ resistance against this extensive, solely financial, almost cold-blooded mode of thinking—“a reminder that England’s poor are all individuals, living beings with families and lives who could not and should not be swept behind a math equation like some numerical discrepancy” (SparkNotes Editors, 2010:5).

“A Christmas Carol” also depicts a more generous form of capitalism.  The character Scrooge is an imprint of his past relationships; basically describing who he used to be and who he has become.  His life experiences made an impact not only on shaping his perspective on the world but also how he viewed himself.  Due to enduring stressful, bitter and sad family issues, he was unable to form alternative perspectives.  Consequently, he was placed in rigid categories or boxes.  This detail was clear through his practice of capitalism.  He experienced an internal battle and was conflicted between attaining more money versus being a good human being.  Later on in the story, he began reflecting on the past and reliving his memories with a sense of guilt, regrets and pain.  This led to his transformation in a qualitative way (Bogardus, 2010).  As a consequence, he changed his ways by practicing a more generous version of capitalism.

List of References

Bogardus, J. (2010) Humans Becoming [28 May 2010]

Holloway, J. (2004) Change the World Without Taking Power [online] available from ;; [26 May 2010]

Holloway, J. (1997) Dignity’s Revolt [online] available from ;; [30 May 2010]

Notes From Nowhere collective (2004) Power: Building it Without Taking it [online] available from ;; [30 May 2010]

SparkNotes Editors (2010) SparkNote on A Christmas Carol [online] available from ;; [27 May 2010]