I had a conversation with the Rob Rynders this morning about the model of “insurgency” to create change. It was a brilliant little chat about the validity of such a method to turn the powers that be into the powers that we(?). Rob pointed to the work of Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq/Afghanistan as a model for counter-insurgency within decayed institutional thinking (read: The U.S. Military strategy for insurgency – the same model used since Vietnam).
The Petraeus model is driven through winning over a cohort which already exists within “the machine” – as patchwork as it may be. This has always seemed like a fragile strategy to me. Most who want to fight the mechanics of a broken system get burned out from it before a catalyst comes around to gather the dissidents to conquer. They leave and become cynical expats who will sometimes go as far as to adopt a scorched earth policy in the wake of their disillusionment.
That being said, it intrigues me that leaders like Petraeus can gather a band of like-thinkers into his cadre to navigate change. Though viewed by the institution as nerds, or naïve, or worse, they were able to affect strategic change in how the military won over a large part of the local population, rooting out the enemy forces by using partnership (co-existing) with the local communities.
I’ve spoken at length (though perhaps haven’t written on it enough) my disillusionment with the institutions that I am a part of. I think most who know me see me as a intellectual/philosophical dissident – someone who has worked within the system long enough to both camouflage in it, if need be, as well as to speak out against it with some ounce of authority. My greatest concerns being the satisfaction with mediocrity, the assumed power structures of power, and the inability to evolve contextually. These few dilemmas have left me undone.
So I suppose this is the question that I was left with today; is the route to change insurgency, or creation outside of the machine? My models for change have been those who worked outside of the institution to create something new (Stone, Campbell, et al.). If all I know is breaking off to create something in reaction to what I find offensive, I have to admit my ignorance towards insurgency. Though I find it a hopeful alternative to my modus operandi, I also feel like it’s a solution that requires a grinding out that I’m not sure I have in me anymore. Maybe insurgency is for the Millennials, or maybe I’m too injured to fight that fight. I know it has to happen, and I also realize I may not be the change agent I thought I would be in my twenties.
What do you think? Is our best route for evolution in our institutions inside or outside of them?