More Than Money
Issue #11

Embracing Our Power

Table of Contents

“Why Wait?”

How much power do we have in the world? Those of us with a million dollars or so, while incalculably more comfortable and protected than the remaining 97% of the population, are not part of the "upper class" or "the power elite."* In fact, like most people, we have little say in far-reaching corporate and government decisions that affect our lives.

However, this power elite depends on the compliance (whether willing, unconscious, or coerced) of the vast majority. Throughout history, sweeping political and social changes have occurred because multitudes of ordinary people organized to influence or overthrow the wishes of that elite.**

Due in part to the greater freedom and flexibility wealth brings to our lives, those of us with wealth have much to offer this organizing: everything from the ability to work at lower-paid jobs with high social impact, to greater confidence working within the existing power structures (e.g., legal, banking).

Yet many of us are waiting to be galvanized by just the right world-changing project or movement (which never seems to come along). Only then (we tell ourselves) will we risk a truly substantial commitment of money or time. This attitude creates a self-perpetuating circle: for lack of human and monetary resources, many potentially powerful ideas never take off. All big changes start small and depend on the support of people who have a vision of what they can become.

Throughout history, great gains in human rights and dignity--the end of slavery, women's right to vote, civil rights, the 40-hour work week--have been won with the support of individual people with wealth (usually behind the scene) who took the risk and put their passion and their funds behind these movements. Together we can release this same power for positive change into the 21st century.

*In Who Rules America Now, sociologist William Domhoff argues that about .5% of the population is "upper class," but that only the leadership of this upper class (with the collaboration of less affluent upper-management executives in business and government) is the "power elite" or "ruling class."

** This view of power is adapted from Power and Struggle , by Gene Sharp. This is the first of three volumes that examine how this view of power has played out historically through 198 forms of nonviolent action.

--from the editors  

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