I’ve created a list by which I gauge those in power: who I should run away from and who I’ll trust for another week. (By the way, the purpose of the world is NOT to serve us; this is how every major conflict begins.)
Now I won’t be naive and pretend that in the past those with power used it wisely. Thousands of years of dark history are against me on that. However, there have been bright points who realized that power was granted to them to see if they’d do the right things. Occasionally, true leaders and statesmen set aside their personal hopes and fears, and instead pursued the hopes and fears of the communities they represented.
Overwhelmingly, however, people with power have acted like 6-year-olds on their birthday, greedily taking everything handed them, believing they’re important and forgetting everyone else around them. But they’re not as important as they deliriously believe, and usually the “day after blues” reveals that, too late.
So here’s the current draft of my list evaluating who to trust in power, still a work in progress. Feel free to send me suggestions.
When to run away from someone in power:
- When their every comment or observation is “I” based; they’ve forgotten they are to represent others and instead are obsessed with themselves.
- When their desire is to be front and center, when they use real problems and issues to get more attention for themselves (real people are merely tools). In fact, new problems may be “manufactured” to draw new attention to the person in power.
- When they’re increasingly defensive and angry, because only self-centered people are defensive and angry. (It’s a basic truth. Test that sad theory for yourself.)
When to support someone in power? Watch for this behavior:
- They focus on “you” not “I.” They (usually) remember that power has been given to them temporarily to do a job for others.
- They don’t give a flying fig what others think about them; they just go about doing what good they can. Often their public relations aren’t too good, but their results generally are.
- They don’t complain endlessly about problems real or manufactured. Instead, they go about fixing the problems. There’s action, not continued pontification.
Power in the United States is granted not because someone “deserves” it, or is popular, or attractive, or wealthy, or athletic. (Although you can make an argument that power has been granted to all of those in the past, and we can see now how those were mistakes.)
Power is granted to those we HOPE will take care of us, will fight for us, will remember that a large group of people are expecting them to represent us fairly and accurately. (Those people may also be popular or wealthy or attractive, etc. but those shouldn’t be the deciding characteristics.)
Many (most?) politicians forget how they got their positions, and instead of managing that power, the power tragically eats them up. It’s tragic for those they represent and even more so for the individual who really thinks that they’re someone important and special because they’re in office.
They’re not important or special. We the people get to take away that power, unfortunately often not until a lot of selfishness has been manifested (“My legacy!”) and a lot of damage has occurred, sometimes irreparably.
I suspect that Lord Acton’s quote of “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” can sadly be paraphrased to reflect modern politics as: “Any kind of power corrupts every kind.”
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