There are a number of corporations that are moving towards a carbon neutral model, which is a great thing. They are considering the damage that their emissions are causing the environment, and trying to mitigate that through a number of methods – planting trees, buying “carbon credits” and so on.
I wonder what it would be like if individuals did the same with their power and influence. The demographic that are particularly on my mind in this are white men. By nature of who I am, I am surrounded by educated, wealthy, white men, all of whom have a massive amount of unrecognized but utilized power. They have more power than they realize. There have been many times when pointing out their power is heard as an affront, or somehow offensive, which is a whole other blog post to be written. To some, it is an issue of identity, that of membership to our imaginary meritocracy, where we all have the same amount of power and this is an “equal playing field.”
However, the reality is that some people have more power than others. Some have a lot more.
What do you do with your power? Within the assumption that there is 1) a power system, and power systems within power systems and 2) there is “right” and “wrong” or good and evil, let’s talk about what we can do with our power.
What would it look like for people to assess their use of power as a first step. Then, as a community, weigh the morality of their use of power. It would be tricky, or maybe impossible, for value to be assessed relative to an individual’s power status and use. However, from there an individual could signal to their community, similar to how a corporation would with “carbon credits,” that they are moving towards power neutrality.
In this thought experiment, I am considering that the idea of power neutrality is even more absurd than carbon neutrality. It is difficult to apply morality to corporations, but at least with carbon it is objectively measurable. Carbon is a finite resource that can be measured, added and subtracted. Power defies definition, and it defies moral evaluation. What is a reformer to do with these abstractions? It would be a whole other world if we could identify a way in which economic power was to be used in order to be considered “good.” What I am getting at is, a school teacher’s economic power can be applied in a “good” way but a billionaire doing the same thing on an amplified level would not be “good.” There’s nothing wrong with an entire school switching paper suppliers to save a few thousand dollars. That’s a good thing, we need that kind of economic freedom, or power exercised. It would crush a whole industry if a billionaire was to do the same.
I don’t want to muddy the water too much, except to ask, how do we talk about power? And how are we to talk about goodness as it relates to our use of power? It’s tricky, isn’t it? What’s the best way for us to apply morality to economic, social, and political power systems?