- Owen Gunden
Updated: Oct 16, 2022
We don't have the power yet to make the types of changes that we wish to make. Imagine what kind of power we would need to have in order to redefine the legal status of animals away from property and towards individuals with rights. Or replacing animals and animal products in the US food system. Or passing Rose's Law. These are major changes that are going to require a massive amount of power to achieve.
When you are up against something difficult to achieve, you have to start by building the strength necessary. If a river is running too high and you want to dam it up, just throwing boulders into the stream and hoping it works will lead to failure, burnout and frustration.
We want to find ways to break the problem down such that each and every contribution to the movement lasts. We have so little energy available, relative to the size of the problem, that we need to conserve and build all the strength we can get.
Imagine that our goal is to drop 10 tons of bricks on a particular parking lot all at once (never mind why). Each of us only has the power to lay a single brick. We get nowhere by throwing our brick on the parking lot, because the impact is too small. We need to coordinate and follow a plan, such that we know that if we keep laying bricks adjacent to the parking lot, eventually we will form a tall enough tower to then topple the tower and smash the lot.
What this means is we have to be patient, and we have to be willing to spend much more of our efforts on building power than on exercising that power. And building power requires completely different approaches than exercising power.
For this reason, at Phauna we are less concerned with the specific outcomes of work or the particular way in which groups choose to exercise power, and instead much more focused on whether and how much the work strengthens the movement in a lasting way. Is the work equivalent to throwing a stone into the river, or is it equivalent to laying a brick next to the parking lot?
Some types of power that we think will be important include organizing power, institutional power, economic power, and political power. For example, by organizing liberationists (definition) together into communities and networks, we are creating organizational power. By placing liberationists into positions of power at institutions, we are creating institutional power. By building profitable businesses that are owned and staffed by liberationists, we are creating economic power. By organizing voting blocs, we are creating political power.
If you're doing work in the animal liberation space, we hope you will consider what your theory of change is, and also what your theory of power is.