People say speak truth to power. Meh. Just speak truth to each other and take power.
People ask the President or government for this and that, without realizing that these leaders actually have precious little personal control. These guys may have nicer cars than you or I, but they are still bound by even more stakeholders and constraints. Attacking them directly is interesting but almost pointless, as I’ve heard from Egyptian activists. It’s more useful to pull on the strings that bind them.
Let us go back a bit, what is power?
In the broadest animal sense, power is survival. Power is strength. In animal packs, the leader is the strongest who is only leader as long as they are the strongest. Why doesn’t human society revert to this lowest common denominator.
Well, sometimes it does, but mostly it doesn’t. Why? Because there is strength in numbers. If 100 weaklings decide that they have common cause, they are stronger than 5 brutes. That power is manifested through institutions and a state. In time.
The history of states, however, is more like a devolution of brutishness than anything else. One brute cows and plays a bunch of other brutes off each other, forming a brute force. Game Of Thrones is interesting in this sense. You see a King who enlists various thugs as lords, giving titles, lands and intermarrying as a form of hostage exchange. Their strength is basically raising hordes of men, or fighting in a personal capacity. This is really a mafia, the basic form of governance.
Where this changed in western history was the Magna Carta, where noble lords demanded certain rights under law rather than from the King. The King wasn’t too happy about it, but he couldn’t govern without their consent and had to concede. This wasn’t really a case of the Kings changing or conceding strength. It was the lords getting together and taking strength in numbers.
Over time, that power trickled down or, more accurately, bubbled up. In the American Revolution, white, property-owning males took their rights. In turn, unlanded whites, black men and women took theirs. You see gay people taking theirs now. In all of these cases, it’s not like the powers that be were suddenly enlightened from above. They were weakened from below and finally had to just acknowledge reality.
It is literally a replay of an animal scene. One alpha ape is trying to be a douche, until he encounters like seven other apes who are like ‘nope’. And he wants to exist so he’s like, ‘OK’. But it’s not like someone whispered in his ear and he set out chairs for everybody. Before he knew it, the power was tooken.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Thing is, by appealing to a President or King for this or that, you actually play into the system, which is a system built on consent. People ask for leaders to push down broad changes from the top, without realizing how constrained the top really is. Yes, a President has personal perks, but for everything else he has to build coalitions or win elections, which means that he depends on the consent of a lot of people. Hence, voting or running for office or actually changing things on a small community level gives you more power, because you can gather more numbers than one.
This is how power is. It doesn’t even make sense for someone to give it to you, cause then they’d still have the power to give. Actually having power, however, means realizing that you depend on other people and that your options are actually quite constrained. People don’t understand this about leadership, so they demand the sun and the moon. If they don’t take the step of voting or running or actually taking organizing other people, they don’t actually stake out any particular claim on this earth. Once you do, however, it is possible to play a small part in the gradual devolution of power to the people. I mean, this stuff happens demographically and economically anyways. The main challenge is not inflaming the process through ignorance and wasting time and energy on the way up.