Friday, April 07, 2006

expectation is the force to fight against

In my study over the past five years of nonviolent movements and nonviolent strategies for social transformation, as well as from my study of Walter Wink's The Powers That Be, I have reached the following conclusion: In order for true reconciliation and transformation to occur, expectations must be challenged and denied.

In other words, if we want to change the world, we have to do the unexpected. Over and over again.

Our lives are ordered by our expectations. I expect to get up in the morning, to eat breakfast, to go to work, to go to class, and to not have anything happen between these events.

Whenever something happens to me that I don't see coming, I am confused by it, and I am forced to deal with it, even if only to write it off as "a strange occurence."

Politicians expect protests. They expect rallies. They expect marches and people screaming in the streets. I hate to say it, but these types of actions aren't going to do a damn thing to transform the world and bring about reconciliation (though, perhaps, they might be effective in creating the type of pressure necessary to stop a current political trend, if the rallies themselves are unexpected, as in the case of Ukrainian citizens per their 2004 election).

The mistake that activists are making, I think, is that rallies and marches have become organizing principles and, hence, are treated as ends in themselves. This creates a situation where activists are trapped in their own expectations.

What has become of this type of organizing (i.e., organizing that is focused on creating more rallies and more marches) is the erroneous belief that large numbers of people are required to bring about transformation.

I want to stand firmly against this belief. Instead, I would like to argue that one person, acting in an unexpected way, can be (but is not necessarily) more powerful and more effective than a million people doing what is expected (like marching in an anti-war rally).

Firstly, I would like to offer a reminder that there aren't a large number of people determining the fate of our world right now, though it may seem as though the whole world is against "us." In fact, to use an illustration from The Wizard of Oz, sometimes it seems like there is just one guy behind the curtain who projects his voice and operates his machine in such a way so as to create the illusion that he is omnipotent, omnipresent, and the majority.

In short, a very few people -- albeit, extremely wealthy people -- have convinced us that they represent the majority of people on this planet. In our buying into this myth, we have effectively handed them our power.

Similarly, if a few people remain in control by deceiving the masses, then I want to assert that a few people can override their control by creating creative actions to reverse the deception and use it against the powers. In other words, a small group of people, when acting out of creativity and a sense of urgency, can create the illusion that they are the majority, even if they are unable to gain the majority's support right away.

And how can we do this? I would offer, by thinking in terms of doing something that is unexpected and creative. This, I think, should be the framework for progressive activists (and, especially, people of faith), even though it is extremely vague.

5 Comments:

Blogger Kyle Poorman said...

jon,
I stole your post and put it on my blog. I think your ideas about creative dissent are wonderful. Obviously we can always take these arguments to extremes, but I do think mass protest still has its appeal, but as we know from the civil rights movement the protests were only successful when there was violence seen on TV and this caused people removed from the situation to get involved in many different ways. In the civil rights movement the oppression was manifest on television and then the entire country was witness to it. One person has the ability to manifesto a stance and communicate it to the world and thats where I believe creative dissent is wonderful. Ok enough said.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Michael Faris said...

Like Kyle, I am stealing your post and putting it on my blog as well.

Love,

Michael

2:24 PM  
Blogger jonathan meier said...

ah, you guys!

2:48 PM  
Blogger Personal Development said...

Many people try to achieve goals. Most fail. Some strive, work hard and plan for all the details yet they achieve little or nothing at all. Others strive, work hard, plan and achieve huge success. Yet there are a few individuals who do little else than take small steps and seem to achieve a great deal with what seems like effortlessness. What is the difference between these people and which one would you like to be?
Most members of the human race fall into two categories - those who live in the past and those who live in the future. Most live in the past. Many of these are the people who achieve very little in their lives and are so fearful of the future that they dare not strike out to get anything. They are the under-achievers who hang onto bad episodes in their lives and either relive them time and again or look at new situations as similar potentialities. They say things like "all men are deceivers" or "all women are interested in is money" or "I can't do it. I tried before and it didn't work so why bother!". Due to bad experiences in the past they believe that all future events will turn out the same way if they dare to go after what they want.
The other type of person lives in the future. This type tends to create more of the things they want in life. They have a vision of where they want to go and exactly how they are going to get there. They work diligently at making concrete plans and they pursue those plans with a persistent ferocious appetite for success. These people are the high achievers - The Richard Branson and Bill Gates of the world. These people have much to teach us about setting and achieving goals.
However, there is a third type of person who almost goes unnoticed. They are the person who takes life in its stride and yet achieve most of what they want. I am sure you know of such a person in your life that just seems to saunter through life and yet they always come out on top. Or a person who you hear of that has decided to open a shop. You meet them a few months later and they have three shops all doing well! So what makes these people so successful and if they aren't living in the past and aren't living in the future where are they living?
I suppose you guessed it! Whether they are consciously aware of it or not they are living in the present. It is in the 'living' present that we have our greatest power. Everything happens in the present. You live your entire life there - even if your mind does not!
By becoming more aware of the present and by 'accepting' it as it is we are much more in control of our emotions and focus. When we live in the past we are fearful of making bad choices and/or getting hurt. We do not wish to recreate the past again! When we live in the future we can also be fearful of what might happen. But even if your future vision is full of power and worthy of working towards many people can, and often do, get stuck there. By constantly reaching for bigger and better goals they fail to enjoy what they have in the moment.
If you wish to start living a life that is almost effortless begin first by living in the present. Accept your situation the way it is and then you can enjoy what you have. Your focus changes from a memory of what was or a vision of what might be to a realization of what is. You become much more empowered to then see the beauty of life and also look at where you wish to make changes. But to make changes you must first accept the situation as it is. Trying to escape from your present only increases your focus on your problems by creating resistance to what is. Accept your life as it is now. Make no judgement, just accept it and then you will be free of doubt, worry, pain and fear. For you only experience these things when you live outside the 'moment'. subliminal messages

9:42 AM  
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