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Can Systems Be Changed By Working From Within?

Can Systems Be Changed By Working From Within?

By Dennis Loo (3/10/14)

I remember being told by my mother when I was in my early twenties that some family friend who was older than me by several years had said to her that I ought to “work within the system” to achieve change. This family friend had heard through the grapevine that I was some kind of radical and thought that I ought to get my head screwed on straight and change the system from within.

Had I listened to that advice I certainly would have had a cushier time of it in my life.

I could have parlayed my Harvard degree the way that at least some Harvard graduates do, to put me on a fast track for a powerful position of influence. That way, I could have really “changed things from within.” Right?

That’s what Barack Obama did, liberally borrowing from the rhetoric of those fighting injustice in order to advance his personal goals for the highest office in the land.

And just look how many things he’s changed since gaining the presidency!

Let’s see, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize he’s restored habeas corpus.

Wait, no, he’s not done that.

He’s ended indefinite detention.

            I’m sorry. No, he’s not, in fact he’s expanded it to include preventive detention.

He promised to end torture.

Good news, he ended waterboarding. Bad news? He’s still permitting torture by other means at GTMO, Bagram, and black sites (e.g., Somalia); he’s retained extraordinary rendition; and he’s refused to prosecute admitted torturers.

He closed Guantanamo and restored the rule of law.

Sorry, no and no.

He’s surely made sure that civil liberties are protected like the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments.

No, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that allows the government based on merely an accusation to hold someone indefinitely without charges and he’s defended the NSA’s universal spying and persecuted whistleblowers.

He’s defended and upheld due process and the separation of powers.

            Not when it comes to his “kill list.”

He’s made it easier for the undocumented to live and work in the US.

            He’s deported more undocumented than Bush did.

He’s famous and gets paid lots of money, with much more to come after he leaves the White House.

True, very true. All in all, a bang up job of taking the most powerful insider position in the world and not changing anything that he promised to change.

***

Had this family friend who was so free with her unsolicited advice said this to me directly I would have told her that she really ought to think about her use of the term “system” because if she did, she’d have realized that systems don’t change from within. That’s why we call them “systems” in the first place, because the individuals within those systems operate according to that system’s logic.

People who say that they’re going to “change the system from within” are really only saying that to apologize for the fact that they don’t have the gumption to fight for real change. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t want to take on the powers that be. They want to be the powers that be.

You can’t have it both ways if you really are serious about your convictions.

Comments   

 
0 # Daniel Gomezzzzzzzzz 2014-03-12 02:07
(1/2) I was elaborating further on system-logic section within the PSA essay and had seen this! This is a perfect example to draw upon. This was published exactly when I needed it. This can be said to be central in regards to why we NEED REVOLUTION to make real change. Anything within the system will conduct the same outputs it has produced, crimes against humanity. Sociologists today fall short within their analysis of certain social problems, not tying even the "identities" they study to the system that had produced them (capitalism). Even more severely, they fall short in their analysis and proposal of the solution to these problems, seemingly forgetting how system-logic works, even if they had consciously and explicitly explained how a certain institution has determined behavioral outcomes within their analysis of the problem.
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0 # Elver Gonzote 2014-03-18 05:56
I agree completely. The system will swallow you whole. As i have stated. Either by brainwashing you into their way of thinking or killing you if you do not learn to think like them. This is why you cant work within the system. The chances of surviving and destroying it are higher by having people who share your same views and have them fight by your side, OUTSIDE the system.
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0 # Daniel Gomezzzzzzzz 2014-03-12 02:08
(2/2) This problem should be addressed and can be linked to shifts in ideology or intellectual integrity due to class, and lack of belief in the masses ability to end these horrors.
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0 # dawahba 2014-03-14 06:34
This article goes back to what we had been discussing in class last week and this week. What it seems to be coming down to is that the position of power itself is larger than the person. It is almost as if the position swallows the person and the bureaucratic, capitalist machine continues to exploit. Unless of course, Obama's personal agenda had already been laid out before his presidency, despite what his promises were. Even then, I suppose it could be argued it is simple submission to doing what needs to be done in order to further the system's position in society.
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-1 # Elver gonzote 2014-03-16 04:59
It agree completely. The system will swallow you whole. As i have stated. Either by brainwashing you into them or killing you. This is why you cant work within the system. The chances of surviving and destroying it is by having people who share your same views and hae them fight with you.
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-1 # Elver gonzote 2014-03-16 04:57
It could not have beep put any simpler; "That’s why we call them “systems” in the first place, because the individuals within those systems operate according to that system’s logic." With this being said, even when placed within the system you are being put into a system with people who live by this system and there beliefs. So you are a lone soldier in your mission to promote change. This is why people from outside the system who want to change are needed. I strongly believe that if you work withing the system you ether a) becaome part of it for personal gain or b) actually try to change and then get killed. In order to guarantee the fall of a system you must get people from outside of it who want change and break it down that way.
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Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12