Speaking truth to the powerful is considered a valiant act, although in most instances, it’s also futile. The reason seems to be that the powerful have a lot to conserve and aren’t much interested in anyone’s truth but their own.
But the more interesting question is why speaking truth to the powerless is such a futile act too?
I offer this example: I recently saw a rather humble-looking pickup truck being driven by a man who looked like he could have used a helping hand. The truck had a bumper sticker claiming, “I Don’t Believe the Liberal Media.”
Now I don’t know absolutely, but I have a feeling this man was one of the powerless I’m writing about. But I do know for sure that many in the “Liberal Media” advocate for him and all those who are marginalized by the inequalities arising from unfettered capitalism.
Yet he deemed it necessary to proclaim his willing blindness by displaying that bumper sticker.
But let’s continue to more serious issues. All of us are powerless in most domains of politics that affect us. Yes, we have a vote. But that’s only for candidates who have passed the litmus tests of their parties and the moneyed interests who own them.
So when I hear a meme being vacuously uttered, I must ask why does the “utteror” insist on maintaining their powerlessness by mouthing the empty rhetoric being pumped at them by their favorite news outlets.
Here’s what I mean. There are two current memes being spread by the right: “Impeach the president” and “He’s the worst president ever”.
A constitutional scholar, I doubt President Obama is going to commit an impeachable offense no matter how many suspicions are being promoted. After eight years of the Bush II administration I can’t imagine how anyone could make the second claim with a straight face. We were lied into an unnecessary war that cost thousands of human lives and untold billions of taxpayer’s dollars placed on the nation’s credit card.
Yet, I hear these two memes whenever I’m around those who are being convinced their powerlessness is somehow counterbalanced by repeating mindless mumblings designed for easy repetition from the think tanks on the right.
I understand that the powerful don’t want anything to change, therefore speaking truth to them is a waste of time. But why the powerless? Why is it that the vast majority of us who truly have no power over anything but our own behavior are willing to be led into blind corners?
Because even though we live in an age of information overflow, we also live in bubbles with impermeable membranes. And in those separated opposing worlds our personal world views are validated. And that validation feels empowering because we can refute the other’s worldview. And if we stay focused on these futile wars of words, we won’t have meaningful dialogue. And without meaningful dialogue nothing will ever change. And if nothing ever changes, the powerful and the powerless will remain exactly where they are. In other words, we will conserve the status quo.
The genius of the system is its ability to keep the status quo desirable to the powerless, and in doing so, protect the interests of the powerful.
Here’s one place where the powerless can gain some true power. We can stop defending the memes we’re fed by either side and begin listening to each other.
There are valuable lessons to be learned on both sides of our political polarity. Lessons that can conserve what’s valuable in our society and make improvements in the lives of many of the marginalized. We can be better than who we’ve become but it must start with you and me. We’re back to a simple truth: be the change you want to see in the world.
We can build a better society, but only if we do it together.
Robert De Filippis