In the last post, I talked about top-down advocacy as an effort by advocates to change the form and content of the struggle for rights. Victories by advocates are subject to continuing struggle as those who benefit from the status quo try to counter or undermine the victory. This cycle may result in expanded rights in the long run, but it requires a change from the innovation needed to create an advocacy victory to defending victories won.
Bottom-up advocacy is an animal of another kind. It too produces innovation and can expand our understanding of the importance and potential of expanded freedom, but in specific individuals rather than law, rule, or policy. This bottom-up advocacy is the experience of epiphany.
An epiphany is an experience that reveals a large scale framework of meaning to a specific person. This new framework of meaning doesn’t alter our past experience, but it can alter the meaning of our past and much beyond the apparent scope of the event that triggers the epiphany. An epiphany is often described as a revelation. It demands the reformulation of what we thought was the case. Epiphanies, small and great and of various kinds, are a normal part of the human developmental experience. Yet, while advocates use the result of epiphanies to mobilize energy and work for top-down advocacy victories, there is a curious lack of organized effort to produce them (except by psychopaths who lead cults). We don’t have to look too far to understand why.
Politicians (very much like cult leaders) often use their speaking and motivational skills to mobilize people generally to support the politician’s personal interests (an election or a specific legal effort). The experience of campaigning to win an election or change a law can be an epiphany, but the change in the person that occurs is not about the election or the change in law. It is about the sense of expanded possibility that results from the experience. There is no guarantee that an event will dramatically expand the sense of possibility for a person. After all, that change in the sense of possibility is occurring in the heart of a single individual, and depends on the uniqueness of their development and personal experience.
I will talk about actual epiphanies in my next post. For that post, I will try to make a distinction between true and false epiphanies by using examples. The distinction has much to do with whether the epiphany reveals to you the expanded possibility for your life from living through another (a person, a political or religious entity, a book, generally some belief system) or changing how you view your possibilities and those of others whose experience of oppression is like yours.
Next Post: Pt. 3 Continued: Some Examples of Epiphanies