Friday, November 02, 2012

re the uses (and abuses) of power

"power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"
--sir john dalberg acton

power in our society seems a preoccupation crossing to obsession.  we think about it, talk about it, hope for it, look for it, chase after it, work after it, fight over it, steal over it.  and if we are not doing any of this we are dreaming of it and rationalizing on it and believing in it.

and believe we do. we believe that power is the answer to all our problems. the answer to every challenge, every hurdle, every hill, every hole, every rough patch, every windstorm and rainy day and heat wave and affliction and suffering and injury and slight wrought upon us by forces seen and unseen, real and unreal, discovered or fabricated, made or imagined, in this realm or another. we believe it to be right, we believe it to be true, we believe it to be an end to all the obstructions keeping us from achieving our desires.

but this form of power is dangerous. motivated by interests arising from the self, it becomes driven by the individual. self-interest. self-service. self-centered. even when justified with the express purpose of serving others other than ourselves, it is still tied with the self. because in serving the fulfillment of our desires it is predicated on the aggrandizement of power within us to act on its use, with the assumption that we can discern the truth of its application upon the world and those around us.

but we can't. self-aggrandizement entails a constant evaluation of power in terms of our position relative to others, where power is power only to the extent that it empowers us to enact change more so than others. meaning that it calls for a zero-sum state where in order for us to succeed others must fail.

and this induces a focus upon the self exclusive of all outside the self, with the aggrandizement of the self coming from the consumption of everything around us.

this is unsustainable. because the supply of life--lives--is finite. and it is self-defeating. because when such power has consumed all around it, it turns upon itself. and so utterly dooms itself to self-extinction.

a safer form of power, a better form of power, is that which is sustainable and is not self-defeating. this means a form of power that recognizes the finite supply of lives and escapes the destruction of consumption.

this means a turn away from the self. it means the inclusion of all outside the self. more than this, it means the empowerment of everything beyond the self. outside of us. around us. with us.

so that it is not the aggrandizement of the self but rather the growth of others. so that it does not consume but instead nurtures. so that it means not a zero-sum measure of one relative to others, but instead means an absolute term reflecting the accumulated contributions of diverse abilities and multiple perspectives of a group unified in its aspirations to find the truths that lead humanity towards a better this realm and all others.

so that the answer to a problem, a challenge, or a hurdle is not the exercise of power from an individual but the exercise of power from the many.

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