Power in Kensington, London, UK
Peter Limbrick writes: Following the destruction caused by the horrendous fire in Grenfell Tower, there have been politicians and community workers calling for poor people to be given more power. Power is a complex subject about which I know little. Three things I do know, though, are:
Whether we are a politician or a professional in a public service, before we speak of empowering people, we should look carefully to see if we are already disempowering people in the way we, or our organisation, usually operate.
People with power NEVER give it away voluntarily.
Any violent popular overthrow of a regime will most likely result in a new set of corrupt oppressors. (Paulo Freire offers a way forward on this.)
Michael Page has studied the subject of power. On page 117 of his book, The Tao of Power, he observes:
"The trouble with writing about modern problems for a western readership is that one is expected to come up with the kind of instant answer which, it is thought, if put across sufficiently persuasively will save the world and its inhabitants from the results of their foolishness.
"To join a political party, a church, a union, a religious sect or whatever seems to many to provide a possibility of righting wrongs and regaining balance. This leads, as it always has, to fragmentation and disharmony.
"As Ben Willis writes: ‘Consider the facts. The very fabric of our social order is implicit with the enforcing of boundaries – of kin, class, territory and ownership, implicit with building walls between other people and ourselves. We are part of a clan, family, team, profession, business, or nation…We don’t harmonise or co-operate – we isolate and oppose. We don’t unify – we make distinctions.’"
Page, Michael. The Tao of Power, Green Print, 1989.
Willis, Ben. The Tao of Art, Century Paperbacks, 1987, p 162
Freire, Paulo. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin, 1972.
TAC Bulletin cartoon Issue 200