System Change

I know it’s fun to want to tear the system down – there’s a kind of high that comes from the powerful feeling I used to get when talking about overthrowing our system. It’s fun to say, it makes for nice slogans on signs at protests. I used to be that guy. I took part in direct actions. We had some success in raising awareness, we created a camp that’s now a village. There was good and there was bad.

I stepped away from direct action at one point and dove into learning about the system. The more I learned, the more powerful I felt. I can see that while the system is corrupted, it’s only corrupted because of the people who run it. Get rid of the status quo establishment types, and you can make the system work better.

I like to look at our city, because it’s the most relevant in terms of actual impact on day to day life – people are suffering and that suffering is easily worsened or lessened by decisions made by the local political/non-profit/financial/etc. establishment.
I keep thinking about various city departments – Parks and Rec, Public Works. These are two departments in our City that operationally don’t need a ton of overhaul. I wouldn’t tear those down. No matter what our system of government looks like, we’ll need the garbage taken out, we’ll need street lights, we’ll want art, recreation, and employment programs for our youth, and especially the low-income kids who wouldn’t have access to that stuff otherwise.

The police department, of course, is a much different story. I think we need big changes in how we take care of each other. Community and Neighborhood policing focused on restorative justice and engagement. Small, community center located substations, staffed by people who live in the neighborhood, who can develop relationships with their community. You get less mistrust and less escalation to violence if people know each other. This isn’t a radical idea, it’s got evidence all over the world to back it up. Many rural areas with smaller populations experience this right now. I don’t believe we should abolish the police – I think we should revolutionize policing.

The overarching point here is this: The System is like a rifle. In the right hands, it can provide food and safety. In the wrong hands, it can cause suffering and fear. We’ve put our system in the wrong hands and we need to take it back. Destroying it just leaves us out in the wilderness with no way to hunt food or fend off bears.

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