Power Over / Power With…

<Nov. 25/10.>

I just went into the police station in Oshawa to give the police my new address. (I’m on probation for a climate change-related sit-in I took part in a year ago now.)

I’ve been on both sides of the correctional fence, you might say. I worked as a parole officer in a previous incarnation, about half a million years ago now (well, I guess it only feels like that long ago!!).

& now, I’m on probation for an act of civil disobedience that I basically felt morally compelled to take part in.

I noticed something interesting during that few minutes I spent inside the police station.

There were 3 female staff members – admin support staff, I assume – behind the very tall, very wide desk.

When I went in – old nice middle-class me – I was immediately asked (if in an ever-so-slightly snooty tone), “Can I help you?”

The tone toward me when it was established that I am on probation seemed to become a little cooler. Dismissive. Almost, but not quite, rude.

Then this brown, bearded fellow came into the police station. Although there was a staff person right in front of him who was clearly otherwise unoccupied, there was no “Can I help you” for this dude.

And I thought, “Yeah. We all gotta have that sensation of exercising some power in this world, don’t we?”

We’ve all witnessed this. People in positions of all kinds who clearly feel the need to be kind of bossy & imperious & tell people (who in many cases they seem to view as somehow their inferiors??) what to do.

I hate this. Even when it’s kind of poignant, I’ve always hated it.(I recall being bossed around one time by a woman who was washing floors in a hospital, & I kind of felt for her, knowing that we all feel that need to have power).

(A person might make the mistake of thinking I became a parole officer because I liked the idea of “lording it over” others. But you’d be wrong. I was actually (in my own self-deluded way) trying to “save the world,” & I really had no idea what a weird gig I was getting myself into with that job. Another whole long story, there. Another day, OK?)

I think we all need to feel we have some kind of power in this life. And a lot of us seem to exercise power in very negative kinds of ways. Controlling ways. Bitchy ways. This is a somewhat complex topic – I’ve written about it at length in my un-published book “Letters to Rebecca: Musings on motherhood…& feminism & patriarchy & female/male relationships & the state of the world…”

Short form now?

I think exercising power in positive ways is a good deal more satisfying (& good for the world!) than those mean, controlling, rather bitchy ways.

There is, in fact, power over, & power with.

A lot of people in the social change movements (social justice, environmental) seem to get off on the power with kind of power. We are doing work that ultimately benefits everyone, & there is both a good deal of fun & much satisfaction in this kind of work. Of course, human nature being human nature, there are control freak types in every line of human endeavour. Life is seldom “black & white,” hmmm??

Well, I could go on – but I talk too much, & there are many other constructive things to do today.

Parting words?

I wish more of us could “get” that sharing positive forms of power – power with rather than power over – is ultimately probably a great deal more satisfying – & energizing, & very likely also much better for our health (both physical & mental), & also for the health of our planet.

That’s what I think, anyway…

Janet

p.s. My buddy Barb likes the term “petty power pushers.” Works for me!

p.p.s. One of the ways activists – of all stripes – let the ‘powers-that-be’ know what we think about the way they run things is by organizing “protests.” I’ve taken part in tons of these by now, & definitely always find them very…empowering. I think lots of my non-activist friends, family & acquaintances think protests are scary or unpleasant events. In my experience, the very opposite is true! The ‘Protesting…Celebrating…whatever' post goes into this…

p.p.p.s. Oh help! I went looking for the definitive ‘Quote for the day’ (searching through my 86-page “Quotations” document) & found a whole blog posting worth of them!? I see that my next task will be to collect all these together & do a posting on quotations with the word “power” in them. Sheesh!? Wasn’t expecting to find quite so many! Especially since I’ve also created a collection of quotations about science (as-yet un-posted), & am not quite sure how to accommodate the darn thing. That list under ‘Quotation Central' is getting out of hand!?