What, really, is the point of power?

A wonderful university where I worked 15 years ago tried to instill the idea of Leader-Servant, that leaders serve those they lead, and no one makes a truly good leader who hasn’t been first a humble servant.

But we have it all backwards. There’s a battle in America now for who gets to be in charge and have the most servants (meaning, us). But America’s leaders are supposed to serve us; that detail has been ignored for some time now. (An interesting side note–historically, no republic has even lasted more than 200 years without a revolution; we’re now at 244 years. We’re overdue.)

Ppoint of power

(I personally hate having power or being in charge; it’s too much responsibility and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Being #2 is far better–I’m a good helper, not a good leader. Ask anyone who’s had me in charge of something.)

Three ways to evaluate those who hold political power: when to run away and when to give them another week

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:

  1. When their every comment or observation is “I” based; they’ve forgotten they are to represent others and instead are obsessed with themselves.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. They focus on “you” not “I.” They (usually) remember that power has been given to them temporarily to do a job for others.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”

Walls meme horizontal POWER SERVE

New prequel coming Summer 2019!

Get the rest of the series here.

The purpose of politics: not what we, the people, think.

Ideally, our elected politicians solve the problems WE, THE PEOPLE assign them.

Ideally, politicians are OUR employees, working for OUR communities’ greater good.

Invariably, politicians forget that when they get a little power, and will do whatever serves their futures, not ours. There’s no wound they won’t reopen, no minor issue they won’t distort, and no real problem they won’t ignore to ensure their personal success. 

We need the return of true statesmen, and the departure of politicians. As James Freeman Clark once wrote: “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation.”

politics makes threats

Get Book 4: The Falcon in the Barn, here. (And the rest of the series here.)

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all [people], as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Doctrine and Covenants 121: 39

Please tell me Perrin and I aren’t the only ones skeptical about politics

I have to confess that with the election season already upon us, and with more than a full year to go, I’m already sharing Perrin’s skepticism about politics:

politics quote

I may go into hiding for the next 13 months. I’m still suffering from lingering trauma caused by the 2012, and I just can’t go through it all again. (See you all about mid-November, 2016.)

“Make your decisions as to what to embrace, but let me embrace my belief.”

In 1836 a prophetic man wrote the following words which we still need today: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege: let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (emphasis added)

The idea of allowing all people to “worship how . . . they may” is vanishing. The definition of worship, like so many words today, has shifted to mean: whatever you spend your time, money, and thoughts pursuing. The implications reach even beyond worshiping Deity (although an argument can readily be made that just about anything can become one’s “god”).

The quote above is a declaration that each person should choose how they will live and who they will follow. Many cultures believe in a judgment day that will eventually evaluate the correctness of one’s life. But we mere mortals don’t make that final judgment. Nor should anyone force another to live a life that feels dishonest.

I’ve written this book series to speculate what may happen to a society when beliefs and ideals are eliminated to allow for only one point of view, and where people are restricted to only one location. Forcing a belief or behavior works, albeit only temporarily, as fallen political regimes—and rebellious teenagers—have demonstrated throughout millennia. A person’s individual belief is an intimate and even sacred thing. It’s also vulnerable, subject to enlightenment as well as destruction.

Beliefs can strengthen and unite us, but they don’t necessarily have to divide us. You don’t need to agree with all of my beliefs, nor do I have to agree with yours for us to still value each other.

You may not believe in a god, or you may believe in a different manifestation of Deity, while I believe in a Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.
But we can still talk together.

You may believe in redefining the definition of marriage, while I feel that only God can do that.
But we can still be Facebook friends.

You may disagree with me on gun rights, or trends in schooling, or the nature of the family, or evolution, or which chocolate chip is better—Nestle’s or Hershey’s.
But we can still eat cookies together.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but we must agree to respect each other.
And we can.

In fact, I grow when you challenge my ideals, and I appreciate the opportunity to evaluate further what I think I already know.

I’ve worked with people who were diametrically opposed to so many of my beliefs that it was difficult to find common ground, but we found it. And worked together effectively.
And even called each other friends at the end.
Because we respected each other.

Then again, that was about 20 years ago.

Our world doesn’t seem to want to embrace mutual respect anymore. We used to call it “tolerance,” but even the definition of that word has been skewed to mean, “If you don’t agree with me, it means you hate me, therefore I get to call you names and bully you.”

This all-encompassing preoccupation with the self, instead of concern for others, creates a me-above-the-world mindset that promotes the individual before anyone else.
And that creates tyranny.

All the “great” dictators of the world started as bullies, or were bullied. But we all learned back in grade school that once you allow the bullies to get power, no one feels safe.

The bullies are winning now, in much larger venues and with much higher stakes. Incivility has become acceptable and even trendy, and it’s forcing people to retreat to different sides and take up arms.
But when did an all-out war ever really resolve anything, except to prove who’s the better bully?

Now, I readily concede that what I attempt to paint as a clear picture of mutual tolerance becomes murky when one person’s belief begins to affect the life of another. What I strive to maintain in my life may infringe on what you believe, and likewise your ideals may harm me.

But it’s also a very large world, with a great diversity of cultures, ideals, and peoples.
The point is, there is room for everyone. There’s no need to force every person into the same spot, the same box, the same belief system.
There’s room to explore, to change, to grow, to move.

Diversity is good. Diversity makes us think and reevaluate. Diversity reinforces our beliefs, or it can even lead us to a better, higher ideal.

Even the topography of the world is vastly diverse. How dull would the earth be if we had no deserts, no forests, no plains, but only ocean? The oceans never invade deserts, and forests stop so that plains can exist.

People are even more varied than topography. I don’t see that as a problem, but as a solution. The ocean doesn’t insist the desert changes for it; it simply resides where oceans reside best. Nor do the beliefs of others need to invade the corner of the world I inhabit, forcing me to change. Allow me to live how and where I choose, and I promise I won’t try to transform your section either. We can even visit and learn about each other, and there may even be some shifting of minds and hearts.

But there’s no reason to angrily insist that all the ocean water needs to go, or that all of the sand needs to vanish. We need both deserts and oceans—there’s room for all of the earth’s diversity, and room for all of our diversity, too.

We can still allow everyone to coexist, without choosing to feel threatened that others are different. I appreciate the sentiment of the coexist bumper sticker, symbols of differing ideals combining together to create a diverse whole.

coexist

Having met earnest believers of other religions, I’ve felt myself enlightened by their depth of soul and sincerity of heart. Goodness, like cookies, comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and flavors. I’ve learned to not label individuals with the slurs of generalizations. That’s what bullies do—shove individuals into groups, then attack the whole to promote only themselves. Some days it already feels that the world is out to get us, because the bullies are winning.

Sometimes it’d be nice to retreat to the very edge of the world, where few people rarely venture. But now’s not the time to run away, but to take a stand and ask, “Why does civility, equality, and freedom mean you have to destroy me?”

I started writing this book series four years ago, and have been grimly surprised to see elements I worried and wrote about initially are manifesting in society today. Books seven and eight will describe a world which frankly terrifies me, and it seems we’re running headlong towards that end in real life.

I also decided some time ago that I can just drift with the current like an apathetic fish and float to whatever dismal end there is at the end of the river, or I can swim against the current and insist on staying right where I choose to be.

I’ve chosen to fight the current, and to live at the Forest at the Edge where I can still speak my mind and follow my heart.

You’re more than welcome to join me.

IMG_5601edit   Trish Mercer