Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More conversations about power

The two questions for today's training are 1) how can we operate with power in the real world, and 2) how can we operate with power and maintain our integrity? Our session this morning began with a closer examination of the Athenian/Melian debate. We examined how both parties acted for behaviors we could imulate and those we should avoid. Most of the desirable behaviors emerged from the Athenians. They:
  1. Controled the debate.
  2. Want to talk to the many not the few
  3. Speech is blount and direct
  4. analyize the power dynamics
  5. Sought a compromise of mutual self interest
From these actions we noted behaviors that would be beneficial for us when negotiating with those in power.

  1. Have a specific agenda! Do not go to meet on a fishing exhibition. Know exactly what topic you want to discuss. Know what you want to say and stick to the script. Also, start the meeting and lay out the ground rules. Be diciplined about keeping yourself on topic and make the other side stay on topic as well.
  2. Work within reality! Organizing is about knowing not about hoping. Know what you have specifically, not an estimate and deal from that place--niether overstate not understate your position. For example if you know you can organize 10,000 people then that is what you say. Even if you have more people show interest in your topic you only have the 10,000 that you can organize. That is your power base and you should be clear about that.
The Melians on the other did somethings we should avoid. They:
  1. They are passive. They consent to the agenda and methods of the Athenians.
  2. They speak in vague terms appealing to hope and to "blood" (the assumed relationship they have with the spartans).
  3. They do not involve as many people as possible.
  4. Only concieve of two options. They want the Athenians to leave and do not accept any other terms despite the overwhelming force.
The biggest lesson here for me was that you have to analize the power structure and know what you can win in regards to context. If you can not get what you most want then change your wants.

It should be noted, however, that while the Athenians desired to act in moderation from there stance of dominate power, eventually they crushed the Melians. They excercised there dominate power in a destructive way which was against one of their own rules. That is to say they lost thier integrity. This eventually cost the Athenians the war of which the Melian debate was small part. So how do we act in a way that is from power but does not compormise our integrity?

As we dove into this we learned that the ethics of power emerge from how power is gained. We were given four methods of gaining power:
  1. Threat of force. This takes the most effort and is the weakest because it must be constantly maintained. Once the threat is removed or the threatened grow tired of the opression your power is negated.
  2. Controlled or slanted information.
  3. Habit or apathy (posses biggest problem for organizers. People will actually think you are making stuff up when you inform them of problems because it takes less energy then believing you.
  4. Mystery, Magic, Ritual, Custom (especially difficult for me since whether i want it or not power is often given to clergy).
  5. Informed Judgement: this is the strongest becuase it involves positive relationships. People come together to analize a situation and come to a decision about an issue or event. Hard to bring about because it easier to have an opinion than an informed judgement.
Apparently, if you gain power from developing informed judgements amongst groups of people, if you are working from developing relationships then you lesson the risk of losing integrity. Often times when the 'have nots' beome the 'haves', they begin to act like the people they overtook. Hopefully we are going to discuss more about maintaining integrity while claiming power.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Hey Jason,

You changed the look of your blog!

Interesting stuff concerning power. I taught an American Government class and used the old "Lord of the Flies" movie to show examples of developing power structures, rivalries, dominance, and governance. The movie is great in that way.

In point number 4 above you commented about people giving power to priests. They do, and for us the responsibility to use that well is profound. Lord have mercy upon us so that we do not descend into pride, arrogance, expectation of deference, cult of personality, etc. A disposition of servanthood is at times a very difficult thing to maintain.