He is a powerful man, they say.
They say it like ‘he’ has tapped into an obscure, secret generator of the universe, forever denied to the rest of humanity.
Statements of this kind annoy me. They make me want to take them apart to see what lies behind them and what makes them tick. Hence this…
One aspect of power is physical. But brute force has limited impact. Though it plants seeds of fear in the one facing up to such power, the fear is does not reach into the farthest corners of the mind and paralyze one. It certainly does not make one throw away one’s weapons voluntarily even before the threat has been fully realized. To do that is the province of the ‘other’ kind of power- the REAL power referred to in the annoying statement above.
This other kind of power generates a fear which is abject, total and debilitating. I’d define this power as a function of- and ability to- compel people to go against their choices and to make them betray their deepest held beliefs, principles and ethics.
What, I wondered, was the reason for the fear…? After all, no matter how hard someone pushes you, it is finally your choice to take a step back and concede your ground. At some point or the other, you accept that you had no choice but to do what you were being pushed to do. There HAS to be a moment in which you lowered your head and said, “Alright. I’ll do it.”
That moment of acceptance is the source of the fear in the face of someone else’s power. You know when push comes to shove that you will give in; and scares you.
We like to imagine ourselves as beings of immense personal courage and steadfastness. We admire people who are stand rock-like in the face of the most terrible storms and yet forge ahead. We tell ourselves that we are like those people. We tell ourselves that if ever there came a time when pressure is borne upon us to make us betray our principles, we will stand unflinchingly and tall. We tell ourselves we would wear our integrity on our sleeve.
When the rubber meets the road however, all our fond self- perceptions crumble to dust. We resist, but finally give in. The point when we give in is like a barometer demonstrating the indomitability of our spirit. We imagine ourselves to be giants of spirit, but turn out to be of far lower stature. It is an immense blow to our ego. We can’t bear the puny dimensions that circumstances insist on brutally shoving into our face, grinding our nose in it.
It is the possibility of this inner betrayal that is the fount of our fear. We suspect we might break under pressure and will forever be denied refuge in the fake façade of what we pretended we were.
The concept scares us cross-eyed.
It is so easy and thrilling to confer all the virtues of the world on ourselves. We clothe ourselves in borrowed clothes. We look at our reflection dressed in stolen finery and we love what we see. We forget that the price of that finery is consistent virtue, which we never paid. Deep in our heart we know any moment they will be snatched rudely off our back, exposing our real self in all our (in) glorious nudity. There is still a modicum of dignity in someone tearing the clothes off our back with force. Oh, but the ultimate ignominy of us voluntarily disrobing at the first loud demand..! That leaves us not a shred of excuse to hide behind. We are then doomed to roam the exalted corridors of our mind in ugly, deformed and pathetic moral poverty; their lofty heights a source of constant reproach to us.
A person who is certain of his own ability to stand up to pressure and knows another cannot push him into perpetrating a betrayal on his own self, has no conception, no awareness of another’s power. He cannot understand it for it doesn’t affect him. It bears no pressure upon him and so he remains detached and aloof. He walks his path with unflinching focus. The thought of an external pressure compelling him to veer from his chosen path is inconceivable to him. He is fearless, because he does not secretly nourish the viper of moral poverty in his bosom.
The ‘powerful’ draw their power from the generators powered by us. The fuel their generators run on is produced within us. The fuel is made of a fear of losing; made potent by a singularly short-range focus. To denude the ‘powerful’ of power, we must stop supplying them with the fuel.
So much for “he is a powerful man”…! Ha.
Pics from the Internet.
Fabulous essay on power, and where others have power over ourselves because we give them that power! I’m going to share this!
This kind of “power over” others is patriarchal, fear is the driving force behind it. I have often quipped that were I to get over my abhorrence of needles of any kind in my flesh, I would get a tattoo on my wrist where I would see it often, “NO FEAR”. 🙂
I agree with you. Our fear is what feeds their power. I wonder if they really recognized how precarious their hold on their power is. I wonder also why we let our fears become their fuel. I guess this is the core of the bully’s shoddy secret. We empower such tyrants to unleash their tyranny on us.
I’d love it for you to share it… thank you so much. 🙂
A tattoo saying ‘No Fear’ is a very good idea. Only, like you, the thought of needles in my skin gives me the shudders..!
Love and hugs <3
Power gives confidence, it is a sign of truly powerful man when he can retain his confidence after giving away his powers.
We know our powers only when we need to use them. Human beings are capable of surviving any situation. We can resist any force till we want to.
I agree with what you are saying. But I am not talking here of an individual’s conception of his own power. I am talking of an individual’s perception of someone else’s power. I am talking about ‘my’ fear becoming the fuel for your power. It is like I create a demon- feeding him with my own hands- and then I cower in front of him scared.
My question is, why would I do that..? Don’t I see that I have to stop his supply of fuel and the demon would die..?
True power- as you have also said- is to give power (to empower) someone else.
Good to see you here. 🙂
A very good take on power Dagny!
When we are in the cozy comfort of our room, we may beat our chest and say we have power, confidence and that we have full control of our life..and no one can use power over us, but once we step out and face the world. There are people with power and authority to exert their power over us. 🙁
Is there anything that we could do to avoid them!? No!!.. but let them use their power over us.
A student’s future is doomed if she/he picks quarrels with lecturerers and not letting them use their authority as tutors over them. The same goes with employers and employees.
I think these people who exert power over others use this power as a survival tool. Most of them, especially those holding managerial positions at workplaces are in fear that they exist in a self threatening environment… and avoid being taken advantage of by those working under them.
I think it is because of this fear and apprehension that compel them to stand aloof and don’t mingle with workers? Could it be the reason why they don’t freely share with workers anything personal except work related matters!?.
btw, when i am going to get a chance to read ” That. Is. Bad” you said you would post? 😉
luv and regds
The whole point of this is to answer with a resounding YES..! to your question: Is there anything that we could do to avoid them!?
The student / employee… what is it that rules them..? It isn’t the teacher’s/ employer’s power. The source of another’s power over you is your own fear. I wonder if you will agree with me though.
You see Bharathi, one of the things I say is: The problem is never our problem, our inability to deal with the problem is our problem.
As for getting a chance to read my BAD stuff… my dear child.. do you think I am going to ruin my fledgling reputation as a writer be buried alive by posting that unspeakable stuff HERE…?!!!! You have GOT to be kidding me..!
If you give me permission to use your email ID, I will mail a few of the fruitiest pieces to you. But keep smelling salts handy… they are likely to make you go all faint and giddy.
What say..? Are you game..?! 😀
Love and cheers,