On Money and Power

August 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm (Announcements) (, , , , )

OK, so we’re gonna have few posts in reverse order here.

Last week I spoke at the Black Rose bookstore in Portland, Oregon. First of all, thanks to Kevin for setting it up and the crew at the bookstore for hosting, and for running a great space.

Ostensibly, the talk was about two projects I’ve worked on recently: the Clamor pamphlet, and the article I wrote on independent media for In The Middle of A Whirlwind. I chose to focus on two issues common to these pieces: money and power.

In both, I talk about how I feel that within activist culture, we focus on the evils of money and power, and often resist understanding them and using them to our advantage. I know that because our knowledge of financial matters was so limited, we made many mistakes at Clamor that hurt us later. This is perfectly illustrated by Stephen Duncombe, whom I quote in the Whirlwinds article: “Progressives worry about abuse of power before we have it, this is a sign of our reluctance to pursue it.” When I asked Duncombe to expand on this point, he replied:

Power is scary. With it comes responsibility. As with leadership, if you don’t acknowledge that power is necessary then you won’t do anything about re-imagining it. I think leftists have gotten very comfortable being critics of power. Criticism on the road to power may be useful, but criticism by itself, in our day and age, is actually an attendant to dominant power. “Look,” the powers that be argue, “we have critics, that means you have freedom and democracy, right?” Criticism, by itself, is just self-serving politics: it makes the critic feel better about their non-compliance but changes nothing. Therefore I’m interested in moving past criticism and really thinking about what is necessary to win power. For without power you can’t change things. And I’m in this game to change the world, not just comment about how bad it all is.

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