Of much debate in our world today, and the world of times past, has regarded the notion of ‘power’ in human society, most often in the context of governance and even the composition of a society in general. Today, I will discuss the idea of power and its relation to reality.
The focal point of many political struggles since time immemoriam has revolved around the possession of authority and control. Evolving out of tribes and into confederacies and kingdoms, humans have always needed to maintain a system of order with respect to their society’s capabilities; otherwise, someone with more aptitude or luck would inevitably take advantage of the destabilisation and consolidate it in their name instead.
In the last few hundred years, humans have begun reasoning about this vital concept in a sense far more theoretical than practical. Much good and scorn has been borne from this: representative democracy, socialism and communism are but a few leading ideals for an alternative to the unreliable and aging systems of monarchy and aristocracy. The last of those three holds a particular affliction with the theory of power, as does its many offsprang schools of thought.
Rather than address the doctrine at large for its benefits and faults, or levee its historical record, or even address the notion of power in the context of communism, I would like to address the idea in the nude – in other words, reason about it without diversion or accessory.
As an average human being, we deal with people in a context of minimal stakes. What we gain or lose through our actions is largely our own consequence, and little if any of this is shared outside our close friends and family. Luckily enough for our well-being, things are pretty isolated, nature forgiving. People who wield large swaths of power or influence over others are not so shaded from the sun, unfortunately, and must exercise great care to avoid missteps or else the world will suffer the consequences. Most people do not fully comprehend this alternate dynamic, having never lived with it and not easily foreseeing a future where they will.
Functioning as a tenet of literal mass appeal, many populist doctrines fixate on this notion of power, and decry it as inherently unfair, unjust, unearned, or whathaveyou. These are fundamentally ideological convictions, and are often interleaved with legitimate concerns of accountability, mortal danger, and corruption to incite revolutions. Contemporarily, populist devotees bear a unilateral and inherent resentment and hatred for those who are wealthier, more successful, better-looking, et cetera, all of which share a common temptation for a jealousy that candidly consumes them, destroying the individual for a collective caricature in the process.
This unforgivable ideal of power rests in the belief that power is not only mutable, but also a static property of those who have it and those who do not, and this premise is fostered easily in a mind already harbouring upset of unrelated kinds. Fortunately, it is handily falsifiable, as power is not a property of a person, but rather a property of one’s actions, which have degrees of potency ranging from raising your hand to hijacking an aeroplane. Even when a society enforces norms of behaviour, ethics and morality, there are always exceptions and holes in these rules, and a few savvy people will always discover these for great wealth or great ruin. It is not necessarily to say they break laws, whether legal or moral, but rather that they innovate to bend them to their benefit – something a great majority of people cannot do!
One who holds power as a property of a person rather than their actions will find themselves in a delimma: ‘Those with all of the power are unjust and must be stopped, but we have no power from whence to cast them away!’ This causes much distress for them emotionally, and they will often bide this stress into their psyche and continue further down the path of conviction that they started on. As their psyche deteriorates, so too does their behaviour, and they lose skills to socialise in an increasingly devastating manner. If the affliction continues long enough, they will become sociopaths, after harbouring misanthropic malintent for everyone around them for years on end, and can be convinced to attack said society in the name of ‘dismantling power’ quite easily, and in very destructive and deadly ways. As a grand finale to the paradox of their ideal of power, the ideologue will take arms into their own hands and unleash an ocean of self-inflicted pain onto everyone around them, falsifying the belief that they have no power which they held dear for so long.
In any case, it is inevitable that one will realise, we all have whatever power that lies in our actions. What we do makes who we are, and the psychological self is merely a selection of memories and reflections of everyone it encountered, serving as a house of mirrors for the illusioned to terrorise themselves in. Sensible people will take advantage of the base power in their actions to meet smart people, and make friends out of them for mutual benefit. Those with savvy often couple this act with their own skill or talent and apply them to become well-known and successful professionally, candidly hopping out of the ether of social relativity onto the world stage for millions to see. Regardless, power and success are not prerequisites for happiness, although mental hygiene is needed for any of them to hold. If you have a calm mind, you may find that you might as well make friends and do business alongside what you enjoy in life. If you don’t, you will be just as satisfied.