THE ABUSE OF POWERS
We are living in a moment when popular assumptions about the relationship of authority and authenticity may be about to shift. And that is because new light is being shone on the hijacking and abuse of power.
The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse in Australia, and the current parliamentary investigations into the Westminster paedophile rings in the UK, are both revealing that structures which we thought were there as instruments of law and justice, or instruments of national security, or instruments of church or of childcare, have been continually exploited, sometimes intended, and oftentimes protected, as instruments for something hidden, inhuman and deeply shameful, serving the pleasures of hitherto unaccountable elites.
As truths emerge about the powers that have created and covered up these crimes – and for whom – so a different picture of the distribution of power and privilege comes to light. So too the difference in interest between those who hold the means of privilege (the 1%) and ordinary citizens (the 99%). More hopefully, an understanding of how powers have been corrupted is often the fuel for change and reform of those powers.
Those ancient warnings from the prophet Samuel and from Jesus provide a perspective that can see a positive coherence across a number of seemingly unrelated social movements.
# The perpetual emergence of non-aligned church structures
# The defense and re-creation of independent media
# The proliferation of justice processes to bring redress for institutional abuse
# The campaign for a living wage in US states – which moderates the trickle-up of newly generated wealth to the CEOs and corporation owners.
# The popular fronts for land rights in Brazil and around the world
# The groundswell of popular support for people of colour being brutalised by U.S. law enforcement
# Growing consumer pressures against slave-labour and sweatshops – and the corporations that patronize them
# The move to sustainable and clean sources of energy in Norway, Denmark, Holland and around the world
# The perpetual re-invention and refinement of the electric car
# The move to natural hair in the US and around the world
# The move to sustainable, small-scale, organic farming in India, Brazil and around the world
(The last four (seemingly unrelated) movements are all about freeing people from perpetually trickling their wealth upwards to the owners of the petrochemical industry.)
Through the lens of Samuel’s warning, all these can be understood as moves away from economic feudalism to an order based on freedom and the common good.
These are truly global shifts. The grassroots energy of these movements gives me hope that we may be moving into a moment of renewed democratization in our day. I need this encouragement!
If I were to look at parliamentary politics for my hope, I would come away with none. The current government policies as I understand them in the US, the UK and Australia, the enormity of the so-called “bailout” and subsequent “quantitative easing” (surely the largest financial crime in history – undertaken by some of the world’s wealthiest people) the ongoing exposure of senior politicians rorting public money in the US, the UK and Australia – and the lack of any effectual means for people to vote for reform, would leave me with no hope of our escaping all that the prophet Samuel foretold – even in countries that are nominally democracies!
However, with a lens that allows me to see these many popular movements together I can see that there truly is energy for radical change all around the world – and that other non-feudal ways are indeed possible!