Thursday, May 24, 2018

Old Power Vs. New Power: Who's Got the Power?

It’s interesting how it appears that the earth is stationary, that the sun and moon move across the sky and the clouds move in front of them but the earth feels like it is standing still. What's strange is how our senses have been altered so that we understand that things are contrary to how they appear, since we know the earth is rotating and also moving through outer space in its circuit around the sun. Our perceptions are at odds with what we know is really happening.

And so it is with the nature of material reality, which is also different from what it appears. According to chemists, atomic structure is such that there’s more empty space between electrons, protons and all that sub-atomic material than there is substance, yet what we perceive as a tree and asphalt and faces is so substantial-looking even though it is less so than it appears. I find this strange.

How do our minds work? How do we synthesize everything in our minds to form a semblance of  order that reflects Reality? Light reflects off the surfaces of things, but there is also, is there not, an internal energy—Atomic energy? Nuclear energy?—within things.

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All this came to mind as I was reading about a new book about power.

2. the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.

The book is titled New Power. I believe I came across the book by means of an email announcement. When you click the link is takes you to the following promotional copy on their landing page:

The story of our chaotic, hyperconnected world — and how you can navigate it.

Understanding “new power” is the critical skill of the 21st century. From #MeToo to Airbnb – from Barack Obama to the shock election of Donald Trump – those who know how to harness the power of the connected crowd are leaping ahead.

In New Power, two visionary thinkers take you on a whirlwind tour of our times, revealing how “new power” is reshaping politics, business and society – and how understanding how it all works will change your life.

On a subsequent page they take the idea a little further:

The world seems chaotic. Polls failed to predict that Trump would win. Airbnb is worth more than Hilton. #MeToo is taking down powerful, previously untouchable heads of industry. But when you step back from the chaos, you can notice there’s an underlying force at work: “new power.”

By understanding new power you can reshape the world around you. The future is a battle for mobilization. Those who flourish will be those best able to channel participatory energy — for the good, the bad, and the trivial. And this battle will have big implications for people, organizations, and for the world at large.

The rules have changed, they say, as they offer up this "indisputable guide to navigating the 21st century." Authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms are making available "a new roadmap to building movements, spreading ideas, growing organizations, and leading differently."

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As an ad copywriter I found it compelling. After a lifetime of reading compelling promo copy though I've learned that sometimes the product doesn't quite live up to the expectations being generated. Nevertheless, it's an intriguing thought (the notion of a new kind of power) and it made me wonder if it is accurate and true (that there is New Power that is greater than Old Power) or only has the appearance of being so.

To illustrate my point here I draw attention to the power battle that takes place in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which later became a powerful Hollywood film. As you watch the battle between R. P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), it's apparent that McMurphy believes he's got the power. He believes he's in control of things. In the end, we see that the inmates may believe they can run the asylum, but in the long game it's only temporary victories they achieve.

Maybe this is what Bob Dylan was thinking about when he wrote, "I seen the kingdoms of this world, and it's making me feel afraid" in the song "Shot of Love."

So the question stands: Does the New Power have staying power? Time will tell.

Related Links
New Power 
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Illustration Notes: Images from two concurrent shows at Duluth Art Institute. Top of page, from Tara Austin's Boreal Ornament. Bottom of page, from Jonathan Herrera's Querida Presencia, an exhibition about power and accountability.

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