To me, various social problems can be reduced to a simple common denominator: An appropriate social distribution of power. It all comes down to authority roles looking out for their own personal interests rather than acting from the interests over those whom they have authority.
Because of my educational and professional background, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand power differentials. That is, I have read and studied ways that power gets applied through roles and how that power application can either develop good outcome or produce negative outcome. I’ll present two examples power differentials that need understanding (and perhaps disrupting): 1) The teacher-student relationship; and, 2) the growing problem of police brutality.
A teacher, really, should create an environment conducive to learning. The environment should be one of respect and attention to various learning styles. Further, any information necessary to learn a topic should be equally distributed and accessible to all students within the environment. The student, in turn, should do all he or she can to learn the material such that in can be readily applied and appropriated into real knowledge. The teacher is the “authority” and leadership role within the teacher-student relationship and must distribute power such that students have recourse.
However, all to often, teachers will abuse that power and create environments that basically consist of “my way or the highway.” This mentality alienates students and will create hostility because, if a student cannot do something the teacher’s way, that student will resent the teacher and probably displace that resentment on the entire educational system. To me, this inappropriate distribution of power within the teacher-student relationship sets the stage for far more dangerous behaviors later in life.
Lately in New Mexico, unfortunately, another inappropriate distribution of power has been rearing its head in the form of police brutality. The formula to justify this brutality is always the same: Blame the victim, amplify the dangers of police work, and voila, police can do whatever they choose to do in their own interests. But, citizens place their trust in the idea that police officers won’t abuse their power, but rather, use it to maintain a just, safe, and fair community.
I do give “benefit of the doubt” to those who misuse their power. I really think that they simply don’t know what they’re doing. Therefore, it’s up to all people to educate and bring awareness that power distribution is a privilege that is earned and must be respected. It may sound quite Spiderman-ish, but with great power does come great responsibility and I urge everyone to become aware of the power that various roles carry and use that power in a contextually and appropriate way. No one has all the answers and no one has a right to oppress anyone else. Yes, here in the U.S. we are free (in theory anyway) to pursue our individual interests, but we are not free to pursue those interests at the expense of the others’ interests. We share space and time together and we must became aware of the great power we all have, even if we think we have none. True leadership is the contextually appropriate, social distribution of power. Anything else is about ego and narcissism and will lead to injustice and oppression.