Power and Citizenship

Prompt: Examine and evaluate a campaign, organization, and/or movement that attempts to address an issue/problem or to reimagine an alternative to a systemic status quo in our society. The campaign I need to focus on: Alliance for Gun Responsibility (https://gunresponsibility.org/) Specifically: Examine the problem/issue being addressed or the status quo being reimagined. What is the existing system of power? What are the existing sources of power and what are the conduits of power? Examine and evaluate the campaign, organization, and/or movement. To what extent, and how effectively, are they using the strategies of power to effect change? Quotes related to building this essay (no need to be included in the essay) Throughout this exploration, a common theme and debate have emerged – the role of media, both old and new, in effecting change. Some believe that social media can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about the issues that matter, thus shifting what Brooke Gladstone, in The Influencing Machine, calls the “sphere of legitimate controversy” (105-106), focusing public discourse on matters that previously had been on the margins. Others believe this focus, when facilitated through social media, is limited in its ability to organize the sustained work necessary for true systemic change.   If we dig a bit more deeply, though, we might see that at the heart of this debate is a desire for change. David Hoffman, in Citizens Rising, argues that the democratization of the press leads to a democratization of power, reflecting, “As information increasingly gets into the hands of everyone, the yearning to speak freely and participate in society can only grow” (236). But Hoffman also cautions, “What we do that this freedom is up to us” (236). As we’ll read in his book, You’re More Powerful than you Think, Eric Liu asserts, “We are in an age of citizen power” (25), and yet “too many people are profound – and willfully – illiterate in power: what it is, what forms it takes, who has it, who doesn’t, why that is, how it is exercised” (8). This final essay for our course provides an opportunity to explore and understand “power in civic life and new tools for claiming and exercising it” (Liu 7). Liu asserts that “power is a language. It has a grammar and a syntax” (12), and given this, “to gain experience in civic power means to treat the world around us as a text to read and as a paper upon which to write” (Liu 64).

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