Subject: The Worst (and Best) of Power
Date: Tue 18 Aug 1998 - 03:44:41 BST
So what is the worst kind of power?
Is it power over, the power of force, because it makes people do things
against their will?
Is it the power of the trade, because it forces people to participate in an
economic system that can leave them under durress and exploited because they
have no clout?
Is it the power of evangilism, the power of belief, because that's what drives
zealots like Hitler?
Is it indvidual power running unchecked?
Is it group power, the power of the mob?
If you have an answer, then think about this: What is the best power?
Is it power over, the power of force, because it protects babies when they are
too young to take care of themselves?
Is it the power of the trade, because it allows people to pull themselves up
by their bootstraps and make a better life than they would have if they
couldn't trade their time, skills and talents?
Is it the power of evangalism, the power of belief, because that's what helps
humans come from their higher selves?
Is it the power of the group, coming together as a community?
Is it the power of the indvidual, the ability to have a dream and make it come
These are hard questions, it's true. It's like asking if fire is good or bad
-- it burns houses, yes, but it keeps us warm -- or even if guns are good or
bad -- they can be used agressively, but they have also protected and fed
We seem to have a lot of ambivalence about power.
I just wonder how that ambivialence affects us when we feel the need to become
empowered, to take our own power to overthrough the oppression that has been
taught us. Does our ambivlalance actually let us give up our power to those
who are less scrupulous with it than we are?
Is the best plan for everyone to become powerless, to lose power and the
responsibility that comes with it, so all can be equal? Or is the best plan
for everyone to find and take their own power, so all can be empowered? In
other words, is the plan to make more losers, to find a lowest common
denominator of power, or to make more winners by empowering more people?
Power is dangerous stuff, no doubt, and it can and will be misused. It takes
a while to learn how to handle fire with any safety, and it takes a while to
learn how to handle power, too -- and both will leave us with burn scars.
For me, though, the role of the parent in culture, even for those of us who
don't have biological children, requires that we use our own personal power to
make a good world for those who depend on us, the weaker in the culture, and
help empower those people to take the role of weilding power in the future.
The role of the parent is to lead, and that means using our power, in service
of the greater good, and knowing that we will make mistakes, we will screw up,
because we are just humans.
What is the worst kind of power? What is the best kind of power?
Can we have one without the other, or are they two sides of the same sword?
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