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The Powers That Were and the Powers That Are Becoming | Memory of the Future Project
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The Powers That Were and the Powers That Are Becoming

By Sara Lovell | February 1, 2009

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storm over

“When the clock strikes me,
the powers of being
will prevail
over the powers that be”

–spoken word artist Saul Williams


I was speaking with someone a few days after the inauguration, and when I mentioned my hopefulness of a more engaged and activated citizenry, he said sadly, he didn’t share my hope. He said the Powers that Be are still very entrenched and that Obama was bought with the same money as all the rest of them. He said he was active in the sixties when they thought everything was going to change. I was too young in the sixties to have experienced the state of the world or the hope of radical change, only to have my hopes smashed when those changes didn’t appear to manifest in the world. That must have been extremely painful for many people. But when he said this to me, it felt like a habituated response. It made me think of Obama out there campaigning and giving his amazing speeches, and the many folks primed and ready with their responses that; “It won’t make a difference,” “He won’t be able to make a difference,” “The Powers that Be are too strong,” “Nobody’s ever been able to change It.” These phrases, flying fast and furious, leaving no room for Obama’s words, his presence, his call, or the answer from millions on election day. In fact his campaign of Hope was probably too much to hope for, for some people. I could feel that shut down. When I hear this response to the enthusiasm of Obama’s being elected, it’s as if there is some other voice in there talking, and the decisions - about how life is and how it will or won’t be in the future - have already been made. I feel for people who don’t want their hearts to be broken again. But I also feel that something’s happening out there and it’s summoning us, and that something’s happening inside us too, as we’re engaging more, and if we stay shut down and “protected” we’ll miss this opportunity for real security. This is not about the same interests that may be at play in Washington, this is about millions of people with new interests that are at play all over this country and the world, and how this is accelerating our creativity and cooperation, with new innovations and strategies and programs showing up daily, it seems.

Paul Hawken spoke at the Bioneers conference in 2006 about the new Super Power of public opinion, when people took to the streets in cities all over the globe, in the largest gatherings in history, to speak out against the invasion of Iraq—to speak out for the possibility of peace, and how this movement that has been steadily building is changing the world.

 

 

What we knew to be the Powers that Be, can no longer be - by virtue of this growing sea of humanity that believes in justice and peace and will no longer tolerate the old systems of consolidation of power in the hands of a few - and has awakened to hospice these dying systems out.

Author and activist Arundhati Roy said:

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling; their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

 

I was in Seattle in 1999 for the World Trade Organization protests. It was a life changing experience for me. 50,000 people came from all over the world. Farmers, economists, laborers, teachers, activitsts; from the Steelworkers of America to the Vegan Dykes, people from all walks of life gathered for the same goals, the same message: that the current capitalist model of deregulated free markets - whose laws were able to supercede those of national, local or state governments - was only creating more poverty, more oppression, and not the prosperity for all that it claimed to provide. And the protests were successful, the action and support in the street emboldened the African delegation and other nations of the global south to refuse to sign an agreement that they felt didn’t come close to addressing their countries’ needs.  The WTO has no longer been able to do business as usual. This was the beginning of a truly global peoples’ movement, and its legacy continues with a more informed and activated public. There’s still much more to do in terms of educating and awakening more people, politically and personally, and I feel that we’re up to the task. As someone from the U.S. in Seattle in ’99, it was very clear that we were the least informed population regarding world trade, and being U.S. citizens, the most powerful population…and in these past 10 years we have been waking up. Younger people see through the illusions of our systems and won’t buy what “they’re selling.” They voted 2-1 for Obama. Our capacity to dream has come alive again, and more organizations are out there full force, building collaborative coalitions, using the models of the Obama campaign with its elaborate architecture of the campaign websites and networking technologies.

The biggest blessing of all - we no longer have the callous, above-the-law, arrogance and smirk that we have endured for the last eight years coming out of the White House and everyone connected to it, including the media. I think we’re only just beginning to feel the effects of that one huge change, and as we celebrate the new transparency that Obama is bringing to government we can also envision each member of the former administration who committed crimes, to land in the faithful arms of indictment. And for the others who conspired to hoarde power for the few at the expense of the many - may they be moved by the expansion of this moment, moved in their hearts to see how they could collaborate to offer a better gift. When we make room for this possibility we allow for a new definition of power - one that connects us to each other and to the whole of life.

From Obama’s Inaugural address:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. 

 

I say the Powers that Were because I believe we can claim that now - that this window of opportunity says we must claim that now. We have the strength, numbers and evolution to change a power dynamic that is almost as old as time. There are enough people who are committed, who recognize that we are all connected, who know that the old ways of ‘power over’ didn’t work, who know that we quite possibly have very limited time to cooperate and create solutions to climate change so that we can create a healthy future for coming generations. I say we are the new Powers that Be, the Powers that are Becoming.

I had a dream about a year and half ago. I was in a room with four or five young men in their twenties and early thirties. They looked kind of like the young Americans who I was marching with in Seattle. They were representatives of the new leadership. I gathered that it was a more feminine, matrifocal leadership model and that the women leaders were not at this particular meeting. I happened to be there as a witness. I listened at length to these young men speak. And I knew in some deep knowing place that our future was in good hands.

 

 

 

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