On Localizing Power

On Localizing Power

I'm sorry for quite a few days of silence here. Post-US Election I wanted to share some thoughts for those who, like me, are feeling like strangers in a strange and scary world. One in which hate Trumps love. 

For many years, when I studied and worked in global health, I intimately lived with the biggest questions facing our humanity: what is the value of human life, how to equitably share resources, how to ensure that people's human potential could be fulfilled in even the most difficult of circumstances. What I got right during this time was a deep, substantive understanding of the interconnected and systemic problems plaguing the world's poorest and least marginalized people. I also became an infinitely more compassionate and curious person. What I got wrong (I learned only later) was a progressive feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it. The problems seemed too big, the roots too deep. I thought knowledge was power- shouldn't I have felt more capable of addressing the problems I set out to solve? 

With time, I have learned that powerlessness in the face of even the most daunting problems is one of the least productive feelings for the human heart. Because no amount of inequality or hate or racism or misogyny can negate this fact: we are powerful, endlessly so, and this outcome does nothing to diminish that truth.

I've come to learn that power doesn't exist in systems, it actually lives within us. Now I see that those things we do every day- what we say, what we eat, what we wear- the activities I once saw as mundane and distinctly outside the realm of power, are in fact some of the most powerful activities we partake in because they shape the world we get to live in. If an election or a revolution or the structures and systems of our global economy leave you feeling powerless, give yourself permission to reclaim that power. Power is not global, it's local. Power doesn't exist in an elected office, it exists in you and me. As we struggle to come to terms with a new reality, I can't think of a better time to remember that. 

 

The feature image is of Inez Milholland Boissevain, a lawyer who led a 1913 protest in Washington, DC for the women's right to vote. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. In part due to her efforts, women earned the right to vote in 1920. 

Week In Review

Week In Review

Week In Review

Week In Review