June 25, 2009

Strategic Framework for Challenging Establishment Power

It's difficult to ponder changing the status quo... the powerful establishment seeks, in general, to maintain the staus quo. Where does one start? Having a strategy helps. Here's a strategy shared with me by a college friend who has committed his life to promoting deep social change.

A Three-Element Strategy for Personal Activism:

It's certain that many of us share the sense that we need to move "beyond" the status quo, but we don't know how to do that. This sentiment is, in part, a reflection of the fact that our social construct is strongly defined by corporate power. An example of this might be that a corporation commits clear abuse, yet it is practically impossible to challenge that abuse because the channels to do so are filled with barriers that have been accumulated over decades of insider corporate tinkering with our judicial and legal systems. Add to that a pervasive control of mass media, and hence public awareness, that effectively isolates progressive activists from the rest of society.

So, how do we go forward? Here are three broad strategic elements by which to invest your activist energies:

Element 1: Invest part of your time in the multi-generational struggle to retract corporate constitutional rights that have been accumulated over decades. This sounds abstract, but think of it as being similar to ending slavery, which was once a legal business practice until the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution were adopted. (Ironically, corporations have abused these amendments by getting the US Supreme Court to recognize them as "persons" within this Constitutional context.)

Element 2: Invest part of your time on time-sensitive issues, like saving that 700-year-old tree in your neighborhood that "needs to be chopped down" to widen a road. It's easy to become solely devoted to urgent issues of the day, so making linkages between this element and the other two is a helpful way to integrate your activism into this holistic strategy.

Element 3: Invest part of your time in identifying and promoting alternatives to status quo systems. It's easy to expose the flaws in the current "system," but difficult to develope and implement workable alternatives. Concrete steps in this regard include educating yourself and others about alternatives models of social interaction, supporting fledgling experiments into alternative models, like worker-owned businesses and so on.

By working within this construct on our own, we will be working together in a distributed way. It is a low-cost way to be organized, in the broad sense of the word.


Dave Henson, one of the founders of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD).



libhom said...

Number 3 is interesting. I'm slogging through The Shock Doctrine, which is well written, but depressing. One of the most important insights is that the Friedmanite's and the corporatists had ideas just waiting for implementation anywhere. That is a good tactic to keep in mind.

GDAEman said...

Libhom, I've seen that work up close... after pushing an issue for years, so that people are familiar with it, a crisis comes along, and suddenly, the politicians NEED to act and the idea becomes ripe for the picking.