The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Two Unhelpful Slogans of Change

A previous post discussed five slogans of social change.  Here are two more, only these have proven to be unhelpful in the various campaigns for social justice.

Power Grows out of the barrel of a gun.

This slogan has been attributed to Mao Tse Tung.  Undoubtedly, Mao did gain political power via the use of guns and weaponry.  However, as has been shown time and time again, the power obtained by violence is both illusory and transitory. 

Illusory because of the nature of power.  Until the 20th Century many of those working for change understood power in very much the same way that those who were the oppressors also viewed it.  That is, the power of one group over another.  The feudal lords over the peasantry or the owners of capital over the labouring classes.

However, the understanding of power changed significantly in the second half of the 20th Century.  Michel Foucault (the French philosopher) shifted the thinking about power from the idea that power was something held by one group and used to coerce or oppress another group.  Foucault’s insight was that “power is everywhere” and transcends politics.

The environmental movement also helped shape a differing conception of power – one that began to see everything as interconnected and hence that one part of an ecosystem was dependent on other parts and that if one part attempted to exercise control over other parts or the whole, it was doomed to fail.

Undoubtedly, the non-violent campaigns of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and later Nelson Mandela (and many others) rocked the idea that power is obtained through the use of violence.

Sadly, the nations of the world have not yet given up Mao’s slogan.  The “War on Terrorism” is a good example of that.  Since that war began the number of terrorists and terrorist organisations has increased rather than decreased.

The Ends justifies the Means.

This slogan was used by many working for social justice ideals.  Within community development it was used extensively by Saul Alinski, a social activist working in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, this slogan also came to be unhelpful in a liberatory sense.  The feminist movement and the indigenous movements of the 1970s and 1980s both challenged this view.  Rather, they suggested, the means and the ends must be in harmony with one another. 

Later, those movements and the emerging sciences of systems and quantum physics suggested that the means and the ends are so intertwined that often it is difficult to tell one from the other.  Linear causality had been cast aside.

Joanna Macy, an American deep ecologist, engaged Buddhist and systems theorist, explains it succinctly.  She makes no distinction between ends and means, and defines means as “ends in the making.”

It is doubtful that many individuals and organisations working for social change have fully accepted and understood what dispersing with these two outdated and unhelpful slogans means.  It is not simply a rejection of one set of slogans and the picking up of another set.

We must be mindful of approaching our personal and worldly transformation in ways that truly understand what the ideas of non-violence and interconnection mean.

1 comment:

  1. I've never liked the saying "the ends justify the means"...sounds too utilitarian for my taste.


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