I use an image to explain the relationship between different activists’ intervention philosophies. The image is the teeter-totter. On both the left and right, political activists engage tactics that are part of strategies for change. They seek to move the center, the status quo, the conventions of society located in the present, in the direction of the past or the future. The Right seeks that we withdraw to behaviors society threatens to abandon. The Left works to seek to achieve changes that have not yet been engaged.

At present, with the Right in America having so successfully brought things backward eighty years or more, what with the dramatic increase of stratification and corporate control, it seems like the Left is seeking to go backward to the 1970s when there was some obvious forward movement. Right backward. Left forward. However far back the Right succeeds in pushing back conventions, the Left keeps seeking to place its weight on the teeter-totter in a way that changes the center of gravity, forcing the center to move in the Left’s direction, forward in time.

This competition is a might confusing because our societal convention has time marching from left to right as we read from left to right. With this metaphor, imagine the Right Wing on the left side of the teeter-totter and the Left Wing on the right. With this switch in orientation, time flows in the direction of our political nomenclature.

Arguments over strategy and tactics, where on the teeter-totter we should push, has a lot to do with resource control, age, demographics, proximity to power, talents and friends. For the young radical with few resources, the best place to push down is on those locations on the board farthest from the center. When all you have is your person, few connections to the center and no resources that can be threatened, leverage that weight to the farthest point possible. There is where a young person will have the most effect.

Contrast that radical with an older activist who has connections to politicians, connections that provide occasional conversations with a representative and the opportunity to be present at events where elected officials can be approached. For that activist, pushing down near the center, nearer the fulcrum, seems intuitive. These activists seek to leverage their access to power to engage in conversation, which is an opportunity unavailable to youth. The older activist could move farther out from the center, where their weight could have more of an effect, but then they could lose their connection to elected officials and the potential influence that connection affords.

Where activists choose to put their weight has to do with where they feel comfortable on this moving platform, their personality, their access to wealth and their access to free time. Each seeks a place that provides leverage with the variables that accompany his or her station in life. Clearly, if every moderate/progressive moved toward their leverage-left extreme, the center would lean quickly in the direction of where the weight is.

That is not what is happening today. Instead, a vast number of people are inching their way in the Left’s direction, moving the center in the direction of change. There is an understanding that the corporate elite so successfully threw their weight to the extreme edge of the right side of the teeter-totter that the gilded age arrived with no announcement or suggestion that things had changed. Controlling media has that benefit. It’s now slowly becoming clear to the status quo that the war, the redistribution of wealth and the de-democratization of society are closely related.

Forces greasing the teeter-totter platform compelling this slide in the direction of change are the web and communications technology. We are witnessing society on a subtle yet pervasive slide in a left direction as individuals experience themselves empowered by the transparent, communication-enhancing, diversity-inducing features of the web. Weight makes a difference when exerting change. So does friction. By making it effortless to slide to the left, technology is encouraging change.

The greased board is inclining in the left direction.

The steeper the incline, the faster the center will slide.


This entry was posted on Friday, September 19th, 2008 at 7:14 am and is filed under 10-Activism, 10-Most Commented, Activism, Future, Society, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
4 Comments so far

  1. Carl Davidson on September 19, 2008 9:39 am

    This works to a degree, especially the factor of making use of connections gathered over time.

    But some on the right are future-oriented, like Newt Gingrich, who is a friend of Toffler and stakes out the right wing of a third wave future civilization (for the sake of this discussion, you can put Toffler in the center of it, and you and I on the left of it.)

    Likewise, some on the left are stuck in a time warp.

    But the model or metaphor I usually carry around in my head is the game of ‘Go’, if you’re familiar with it.

    Encirclement and counter-encirclement, with clusters of ‘people-issues’ as the pieces, only play it with stones of three colors–white, grey and black, with black as the forces of reaction, grey as the middle forces and white as the progressive forces.

    It works for me! But some people prefer Chess, and too many people play checkers, which usually means they lose.

  2. Andrew on September 19, 2008 10:55 am

    Though games have a narrative, almost by definition, the teeter-totter model seeks to explore the political change narrative from an evolutionary point of view. Games don’t usually suggest an evolutionary dynamic. When you finish a game you just start over again. No increase in subtlety and sophistication is suggested. Interconnections aren’t enhanced.

    Social structure contrasts, patrifocal vs. matrifocal, sets the stage for battles that somehow unfold accelerating equality over time. In ways I don’t yet understand, surges of patristic top down structure leads to horizonalizing influences providing resources to those that had few before.

  3. Rosalie Riegle on October 25, 2008 5:11 pm

    So if we all act like young radicals (or the resisters I’ve interviewed, many of them older than I am, who do cd and go to prison) the slide will be faster???

  4. Andrew on October 25, 2008 8:19 pm

    The slippier the slide, the faster we’ll go.

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