I’ve recently been reading Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era, and I’ve been impressed by Zuniga’s astute observations regarding political change and how it occurs. Zuniga (or Kos, an abbreviated form of his first name, Markos) is the founder of the very influential political blog, DailyKos. Writing from the liberal perspective, his book would help anyone who seeks political change, regardless if they identify with his politics.
So, I thought I would create a mashup of these two conversation partners, looking to Jesus for the primary agenda of social change (the kingdom of God) while looking to Kos for the means of change, knowing full well that I need to hold both of these ends in loosely to create opportunities for synergy.
I imagine creating a number of posts, one or more posts per chapter of Taking on the System.
Chapter One (part one)
Kos writes that today we need the media for significant social change. We can protest in the streets, but unless it is covered by the media, it is not really an event. Change happens through changing the flow of information, and if you can’t change the flow, you can’t change hearts and minds. In the 1930s, Gandhi used news reels to broadcast his protests at the salt mines. In the 1960s, protestors used network TV to broadcast their message. Today, it will be social media that transforms the landscape. It will be the bloggers.
What were the political dynamics surrounding Jesus? In first century northern Palestine, word of the Jesus movement spread through Jesus’ teaching, preaching and healing. He taught with a different kind of authority than the religious leaders, and so he garnered support. To the people, he appeared like a revolutionary zealot, as a prophet on the fringes of society. People followed him in the countryside. It was a bit of a backwater in northern Palestine, yet thousands came to hear him speak. He offered them a different understanding of reality than was given by the religious leaders — a new way to be the people of God. This put pressure on the leaders, both Jewish and Roman, to respond in some way. Unknown to the powerful — it was the powerless of society that knew who he was. It wasn’t until Jesus came to Jerusalem during passion week where his public role grew dramatically.
Kos writes that the ultimate goal of activism is dislodging conventional wisdom. HIs advice is particularly relevant for social change in democracies, but one could argue that changing public perceptions is valid in more oppressive systems as well — but you may not see the results as quickly, if at all. Jesus changed the conventional wisdom of the masses through storytelling. I’ll talk about that more in a later post.
For Kos, changing conventional wisdom takes place through changing the perception of what is true as understood by the public, the gatekeepers, and those in politics. Whoever frames what is considered to be true controls the nature of the debate. Kos cites the Daou Triangle, an article written by Peter Daou on Salon in September 2005. Daou put blogs (or netroots) on one corner of the triangle, the media on a second corner, and the political establishment on the third. At this point in history, blogs cannot effect change in conventional wisdom on their own, but they can put pressure on the media and politicians to change the conversation. Bloggers can put pressure on the media or the politicians, or both.
What does a Jesus and Kos mashup look like here? What is the takeaway for churches today? In sum, Jesus-like communities will become an online social movement challenging both the media and political power. Strongly connected to each other, they will live out, as a social community, what they preach to others. From the outside, they will seek to challenge and influence the common understandings of reality as put forth by the media and the politicians. And they will be bloggers.
More to come…Part II — Moving Past the Gatekeepers