Powerlessness. Synonymous with impotence. And it’s something most of us can relate to. We live in a proverbial cage of iron laws; from the the government, economy, social constructs, and the basic laws of physics of course, we are surrounded, if not completely controlled by our environment. But, without getting into the free-will debate, we are regardless of the existence of free-will heavily influenced by our environment.
But what power do we have to change it? What potency do we posses to influence our environment? Of course there’s the obvious literal environment: we have constructed cities and altered landscapes and it’s being debated if we are in fact entering a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene because we have influenced our environment so greatly.
But what about the individual and without obscene amounts of wealth?
There’s the power to join up with others and collaborate, but that’s not really individual. There’s what political scientist Robert Dahl called “slack in the system” He meant we all have a little extra time or money that we usually spend watching TV or watching internet porn. But when things get bad enough we start using our extra resources, maybe even a network of friends, to influence politics, but the same idea can be applied to society and the environment. That could count as individual, but it usually takes collaboration with other like minded people for the slack to add up. Voting, whether you believe it’s a valid exercise of public power or not, is still collective. So what power does the individual have?
There’s the power to create art. The arts are the means for most of us it would seem. Playing music, painting, writing, etc, which in small ways do in fact change the literal environment and can influence others. These satisfy the little god-complexes in all of us. Gardening is another small god-complex indulgence. You actually get the power over life. Even if you built forts in the woods, wasn’t it to create a place that belonged to you? In some sense there’s just a human instinct to create.
But compared to what the forces of nature, massive wealth, and collaboration can bring to bear, gardening is just not as powerful. It seems we have very little power and that fact shouldn’t be all too surprising. We should all know by now, at the very least, power is distributed unequally- even amongst gardeners.
Perhaps then, it is simply the natural state of the human animal to be relatively powerless- at least for most. Other primates and social animals have social hierarchies and so do we. Some members have better mating opportunities, or food privileges, or whatever the perks might be for higher social status- and thus more power. We are not all equally talented, attractive, and intelligent, nor are we all talented, attractive, and intelligent in the same ways.
I want to say we are the point in our evolution and technological development where we are able to get past these inequalities insofar where everyone has food, water, and a quality, sustainable habitat. Technologically, yeah, probably. Evolutionarily? Intellectually? Psychologically and sociologically? Maybe some of us, but not the majority and certainly not the majority (whatever, whoever, and wherever they may be) of people in charge today. If they were, we would be living in a drastically different world.
Should most individuals even have power? Power over their own bodies and life, yes, but the power to influence the environment and others, certainly not. Take a walk around a public park that’s not maintained by the town or state very well. Walk down the road and I bet you’ll see trash in the trees. The local pond by me is filled with beer cans, used diapers, condoms, and tampons. And if you walk barefoot you’re even more likely to get an STD because of all the broken glass. Someone also decided to spray paint the trees with “pokesmot.” Yes, that’s going to make a good case for the legalization of marijuana, thanks you asshole hoodlems.
We like individuals, but when we think of people we think sheeple, assholes, idiots, they can’t drive, etc. There are individuals who can not handle the power of an automobile. Hence drunk drivers, dead texters, and the people they’ve killed. This is why we don’t have flying cars. We have the technology, but there’s no way the public could be trusted to drive them. The irresponsible nature of the human animal is just another reason we should probably have some better gun laws too.
Until we start engineering ourselves to have larger frontal lobes, and or all become linked in a singularity, we will still have inequalities and a mess of a world. In the meantime though, we should recognize that we are still animals- just with fancy tools. The more savage animals are often the ones able to amass a lot of power while the rest of us remain more domesticated eating from feeding troughs throughout school, college, and buffets.
~David T Kukulkan~