An Era for Wizardry

It is a good time to be a wizard. What would Harry Potter do, faced with the problems of the world today?

It may be easier to say what the fictional boy wizard would not do than to say what he would do. He would not be the kind of leader we see on the news trying to steer the world in the right direction. It is hard to imagine him collecting signatures on a petition or organizing a boycott of a corrupt business. Of course, that’s probably just as well, when you look at where a quarter century of tactics like these have brought us.

The fact is, citizen organizers and political movements are outfunded and easily outmaneuvered by the international billionaire-investor class these days. One of the early warning signs of this could be seen in 2009 when Wall Street turned the Tea Party movement completely around. Started spontaneously as a protest against Wall Street greed, within a couple of years it had been coopted and turned into a front for Wall Street interests.

Things have only gotten worse, so much so that now a protest vote, with voters imagining they were voting against the concentration of insider power, has sent a Wall Street insider into the White House. To protest this is to fail to appreciate what has just happened. The supporters of the new Wall Street White House thought they were protesting too. The public is following a script. The proud process of democracy has broken down.

Supposing you are dismayed by discovering this, what can you do? Do you support the supposed program of change, protest against it, or stand around to watch the train wreck that will follow? Obviously, none of this will help. Any of these reactions plays into the script written for the public to follow. Nor is the situation very different in other countries. The money that makes this all happen knows no political boundaries.

It is simply not a good time to be a citizen or to rely on collective action of any kind. Many of the things Harry Potter would not do, such as trying to organize or wield institutional power, amass fame, control the larger context of the situation, or seek out a compromise, are not good things for us to do either.

I would argue that almost any action that forms part of a mass action is a weak approach in the current period. It is not a particularly good time to launch a business or product, search for a job, earn a degree, watch a program on commercial television or listen to commercial radio, negotiate a better deal or wait for a sale price, follow fashion, join a support group, or take a prescription drug. All of these avenues of action and many more are actively manipulated by a combination of big money and modern automation. You can take action on a large scale thinking you’re solving a problem only to end up holding nothing at the end.

A wizard is in a more powerful position in this situation. Far from trying to join a crowd that will only be manipulated, a wizard focuses on action based on his own view of the situation and his own skills and resources. He might learn new skills, gather specific information, or seek help from people he knows, but these actions will point toward the specific problem he sees directly in front of him.

Regardless of your level of magical abilities, I would argue that wizardry is the right approach to take now. Rely on your own abilities and your own wits. Then focus on the most important problems that you find right where you are.

I would suggest that this is a good time to study the one subject that you realize you need to know — probably not by going to a university, but using whatever resources you can find around you today. It is a good time to practice skills, and to visualize the use of a skill if you can physically practice it today. It is a good time for self-awareness, for cleanup, for seeking efficient approaches, for finding ways to make yourself more healthy through your daily practices. It’s obvious enough that a wizard’s skills would be valuable in doing any of these things, but if you will approach these close-to-home objectives as if you had the skill of a wizard, you may find that you are making progress on them as if you had the skills of a wizard.

These individual actions are more important now precisely because we have neglected them for so long. At the same time, they have become more important now because our collective efforts are being stymied by institutional power that resists our actions.

Institutional power is unable to resist the quiet individual efforts of a wizard. The people who think they run the world will laugh at the whole idea of wizardry, or indeed that of individual action. The same institutions that can turn a trend against itself, as we saw with the Tea Party and in so many other examples, has no ability to detect or deflect the actions of an individual. If you join an exercise class, and if enough others join, perhaps the institutions of sickness could eventually change the exercises just enough that they cause as much illness as health. But if you individually decide to exercise for health, paying attention to your own individual successes, the institutions of sickness cannot stop you. And it is the same with every other endeavor you might find along the way. In a world that tracks trends and seeks to monetize and neutralize them faster than ever before, a single wizard acting alone, not following a trend, may be just as powerful as a whole business corporation, but by contrast, an organization may serve only, at best, as a distraction of the same corporation.

Within a few years, I believe there will be more wizards than corporations. The wizards will win out in the end just by sheer numbers even though they are not acting in coordination with each other — or more precisely, because they are not acting in a coordinated manner.

It is only when we get to that point that collective action will regain the power that it had in the past. I can’t say how long that might take, except that at this point it looks like there are years of work ahead of us.

It is a time for wizardry. We all have plenty of distinctive and individual problems to address, either right at home or where we can easily find them. Focusing on these individual problems and not the mass problems that are put upon us collectively through the mass media, we can rediscover our ability to make changes. It is an ability that the “system” seems to have taken away from us, but it hasn’t really. You can’t beat the system, not today, but you can still beat your own chosen problems one at a time.

When we look at the world, it looks as if the citizenry is under attack. The answer is not a greater emphasis on collective action or citizenship. The answer is found by applying the idea of wizardry to the “smaller” problems that we have been persuaded to set aside. Wizardry will eventually bring us back around to the problems that can be solved only by collective action, but we all have a lot of work to do separately before we meet again at the head of that trail.

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