Knowledge is Half the Power

July 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Many of us in the United States have been assured from an early age that knowledge is power. While this is true, it is incomplete. Knowledge is half the power. (And if not exactly half, some percentage of power). There are a number of other factors which make up power including but not limited to, race, class, age, sexual orientation, finances, who one knows, societal norms of one’s environment and most importantly, action. Knowledge means little, if it is not acted upon.

We learn every day. Every now and then, we learn of an injustice in the world which hits us just right, to the point that we want it to change it. Often however, we are far removed from the injustice, so either we forget it or become overwhelmed by the task of taking action. As a result, we may fall into a cycle where we simply read more about the issue, or keep telling others of the injustice, but never get around to concrete action. And while action may be hard part, it also seems to be the most rewarding. How do we make that leap to act when the injustice seems insurmountable? How do we harness the energy of those who came before us, who know what tactics work for each issue?

At IISC, one of the pillars of Facilitative Leadership is to Seek Maximum Appropriate Involvement in decision making. I can’t help but wonder, what is our maximum appropriate involvement in an unjust world? At what point are each of us are the messengers of knowledge and then the actors of change? And how does each find their balance within the two.

I once read that shared knowledge is power lost. But in a world that so desperately needs collaboration, shared knowledge can pave the way for greater action.

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  • Chris Toppin says:

    Great piece, Santi! Thanks for this. The Calvin and Hobbes is a nice touch, as well.

  • Gibran says:

    Thanks for your reflection and your invitation Santi – you make me think of Bill Torbert and his good work on “Action-Inquiry,” where he ties the development of knowledge through action. He understands that knowledge is not static, that is changes and grows – hence the idea of inquiry. In “seeking maximum appropriate involvement,” we should ask “involvement in what?”- certainly in decision making, certainly in taking action, and to your point, most certain in Inquiry!

  • Curtis says:

    “Shared knowledge is power lost” . . . I’m still mulling that one over.

  • Melinda says:

    Provocative piece, Santi. Thanks. I think of what compelled us ( to do and continue this work in Sudan. For me, it was exactly being moved — no incensed — that in my lifetime, being a descendant of enslaved people, there could be black people somewhere in the world who were being enslaved. The rationale for founding My Sister’s Keeper was that small groups of ordinary women mobilize themselves, their networks, and their personal power to come along side women and girls 9,000 miles away to simply, stand together as sisters, and build — school buildings, relationships, awareness, a new Sudan. Knowledge is one thing; rightly and righteously applying and acting on knowledge – that’s wisdom. So yes, I too believe that knowledge is only part of the equation. Knowledge, in itself, is not king.

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