Towards an Abolition of Hierarchies

By Henrie Slocum

I want to tell a small story that tells a larger story about the injustice of hierarchies. As a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) on campus, I have dealt with various orgs and student bodies while planning events. None have been more incompetent than the Financial Affairs Commission (FAC) of the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG).The ISO hosted a day-long series of discussions on the revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx in October, for which we invited three speakers from Chicago to give short presentations to preface the discussions. We applied for an additional allocation two weeks in advance (as per the stated FAC protocols) that would cover transportation, lodging and a small honorarium ($100) each. A week before the event, I received an email from the FAC saying that our request had been tabled until they had more information about the event. In the email, they asked questions which I had already answered at the meeting where they discussed our request. The event happened, was well attended, and still, the FAC had not responded with a decision. I sent one email, and then talked to the FAC Chairperson, personally asking whether or not a decision had been made and why it was taking so long to notify the ISO. Three weeks after the event we had still heard nothing from the FAC. Finally, after two more emails, a member of the FAC approached me, apologizing that no decision had been made because the Secretary had not forwarded the emails, and that nobody besides the Secretary and the Chair had access to the email account.

This epic blunder speaks volumes about the nature of hierarchies. In a group of nine people, only two have access to the email account, giving them privilege, power and responsibility over others. Although I’m not convinced, maybe if all nine had access to the email account someone would have at least read the multiple emails. Regardless, the current structure of the FAC is inefficient. Power is held in the hands of the few, and due to their mistakes, the image of the entire group is negatively impacted. Their problem is not a unique one, but rather a shared issue with all systems organized on a hierarchical model.

I believe in abolishing all hierarchies, dispossessing those in power, and reorganizing society in a way that all have access to what they need and are responsible for the well being of their community. Members of the FAC, if we understand that group as a microcosm, do not all have access to the same resources. They cannot be responsible for the well being of their community because the resulting hierarchy puts the burden of responsibility unfairly on a select few members. The hierarchical organization model employed by the FAC (and most other student groups on campus) is also unjust as it gives certain members more decision-making power than others. This makes it possible for a higher-ranking member to exert influence either for or against a proposal based on their individual feelings. Privileging one person’s opinions or feelings over those of another is unacceptable and only reinforces oppressive structures. For instance, the president of this country can sign an executive order authorizing just about anything, regardless of how other members of the administration, let alone the citizens of the country, feel about the matter. Sure, there are checks and balances, but even still, an incredibly small amount of privileged people cannot act as the voice of all members of the concerned community.

It is because of the failures of hierarchical systems of control obvious in this small yet impressive blunder by the FAC that events that critique those systems, such as the one that started this whole hoop-la, are even more important. I will give the FAC the benefit of the doubt that this situation was not the result of a political/ideological disagreement (though I would invite them to fess up if it was), but the coincidence makes for a convenient argument. The abolition of hierarchies in all aspects of society is necessary to ensure all are treated fairly. Not only would all members of the FAC have an equal voice in making decisions, but the Macalester community applying for additional allocations would also be treated fairly and kept in the loop.