Vertical power

umair haque is the only author I read almost every day. He explores problems we face in more depth than other writers I’m aware of. Issues related to civilization, politics, economics, and our environment.

Still, I was surprised when a recent article focused on “vertical power“, and how that inevitably leads to authoritarianism. He defines “vertical power” as every stratum of society occupying its position on a hierarchy.

If you look closely at America, you will see a society of vertical power. One whose sole organizing force is vertical power. What do I mean by “vertical power”? I mean that every stratum of society occupies its position on a hierarchy, and each struggles to keep the next down, instead of lift any other up. Vertical power is power over, vertical power systems maximize power over — and so American life is now one great power struggle over the next person, everyone locked in mortal combat with everyone else.

Vertical power allows us only two rules in life. Punch the next person down, so they stay down. And obey the next person up, so they don’t hurt you.

Why America Collapsing Into Authoritarianism Was Inevitable by umair haque, Eudaimonia and Co, 8/7/2022

Those who know about Mutual Aid know it is based on escaping vertical hierarchies by building communities without such hierarchies. Communities described as having flat, horizontal, or no hierarchy.

Modern societies need a very different kind of power. Horizontal power. What is horizontal power? It is genuine self-governance and self-directedness. It is power to, power in, not power over. The power to realize one’s self, to fulfill one’s possibilities.

The problem is that America does not do horizontal power. It does not understand it, have any affinity for it, or believe that it can exist, really. It never has. It is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of horizontal power — precisely because it is so attached to its history of vertical power. Why don’t white people want black people to rise? Why don’t people in cities care about people in rural areas — and vice versa? Why don’t people lift each other up? America is obsessed with vertical power.

Why America Collapsing Into Authoritarianism Was Inevitable by umair haque, Eudaimonia and Co, 8/7/2022

As he says, this country is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of horizontal power. But Mutual Aid communities offer the opportunity to experience horizontal power. I have found participating in a Mutual Aid community fulfills a great yearning to do meaningful work with like-minded people. To build Beloved communities together.

When I first heard about Mutual Aid, I thought I would go to a local Mutual Aid project, the free food giveaway, just to see how that worked. Instead, I found the home I’d been looking for, and have returned nearly every Saturday morning since for the past two years.

Des Moines Mutual Aid
Des Moines Mutual Aid
Des Moines Mutual Aid
Ronnie James on Mutual Aid

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