THE IDES OF AUGUST 2020
We are taught that ‘power corrupts’. History shows us this statement is often true. Yet there are different kinds of power. So when we talk about power, we don’t always agree what that means. Do we speak of a person’s sheer physical strength; or the military might of a nation? It is a discussion of an ability to lift five hundred pounds; or the faculty to ‘hear’ other people’s thoughts? Do we refer to the might of political authority; or the social pressure of our new digital universe? Or by power, do we mean the rate at which work is done and energy is transmitted?
When we discuss power, we often mean some controlling authority, or direct influence, over others. Then individuals, or groups, in charge have a defined right to act in lieu of the people subject to their control. So when we give people this control we expect them to use it for the benefit of those they represent. And to the extent they are part of the group they have authority over; they may share the same benefits from their actions as the rest of their group. When this happens we usually call it an appropriate use of power. Like a mandate that every home in a town receives trash collection. Even though this decision includes the home of the one making the call.
However, once we give people the authority to exercise power on our behalf; we are tied to the choices they make. Then we are at the mercy of whatever vision, scheme or deed their concept of being in charge means. Whether the decision is of some benefit or causes harm. When the people in power act in accord with the people they govern, societies are creative and productive. Its because one aspect of effective use of authority is in gaining public trust. For when we can rely on the words and stated objectives of those in charge, we manage our affairs with more confidence. Knowing they are working to further our best interests.
Those who wield the authority to choose and decide for their society; are expected to be competent and capable of doing the job. In fact its a disservice to their society to do otherwise. So if they match their actions with public aspirations, goals and needs; they can cultivate public trust and good will. Such endeavors encourage and inform the community. As well as it broadens interest and appeal for the project at hand. In turn, that creates a climate of consideration, helpfulness and trust. Which benefits a community and helps a society grow. It is an example of how well a community can work when its leadership has the welfare of the people in mind, as their main responsibility.
Yet when those in power have plans or objectives which differ from the needs and goals of their society; those without power will suffer. Because when we have the power, we set the agenda. Not only do we decide what goals will be pursued; we choose which ideas will even be considered. When we are in charge, we allocate resources as we see fit; and only support projects we deem worthy. Once we are in charge; we set the priorities, the schedules and the timetables. We decide what has value and what does not. As well as the relative value of each thing’s worth. When we have the power, we decide whether or not a problem is a problem; and for whom. We even decide when our day will begin and end.
Which brings us back to the thought about whether power corrupts. The power we refer to here occurs when someone has control over someone or something else. It is when we have this control over others that power can sway us. For we can wind up in a situation where we control others; to make them act for our benefit. Without regard for whether that damages, hurts or kills them. If, or when, we do that, it is a corrupt act; as abuses or violates someone else’s well being. While at the same time frustrating their free will. Since we know this can happen; we usually assign, or bestow this kind of power within given limits. And while its purpose is to further societal goals, which benefit all concerned; it is usually an authority which can be rescinded.
When that is not the case, it means that the more power one person has the less there is for everyone else. And correspondingly, less authority. Thus as one gains more power they also acquire a greater ability to direct or prevent the independent actions of others. Which in turn gives them more control and authority to dominate, manipulate, or subjugate other people. That is not a formula for creating a healthy society.
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J. A. Stubbs, Editor-In-Chief,
Forgotten Lore Publishing, llc