When dealing in abstract concepts like these, it can be difficult to have a real conversation without first agreeing on how to define the terms. I think that a lot of people use power and strength interchangeably, yet I can’t help but think that they differ in very important ways.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I was taught that quote by a very influential history teacher in high school and it has continued to echo through my mind since. I can’t help but be reminded of it when I see people in positions of power put the needs of the few before the needs of the many. It’s as if there’s something inherently inefficient about power.
When I think of strength, it’s similar to power. But not quite. Strength is almost like the potential of power. Unused power. A visual of strength does not require a display of aggression. Perhaps there’s a duality here. Is power to offense as strength is to defense?
It’s interesting, you could say that someone is both powerful and weak at the same time. A frail old king is both re(g)ally powerful and physically weak. Politicians are known for having political power but weak integrity. Movies are constantly filled with villains who wield vast power, but lack a strength of character. I’m not sure if I know of any villains who have a great strength of character, but wield little power. In many cases, is that not the hero? The unassuming, jacked, strong jaw line with a warm smile kinda hero?
Analyzing this in the abstract is usually a journey down the rabbit hole, but there are some examples that help me clarify what I’m thinking.
Name calling has gotten out of control. For most of my life, I was taught not to feed into it. To walk away. To appreciate that the person doing the name calling is probably doing so because they’re battling their own demons. It was tough when I was younger but it’s second nature now. Now, when someone’s hostile towards me, I’m much more likely to view the situation with compassion than anger and I can’t help but think that makes me strong. Moving through life, invulnerable to the malicious attitudes of others is really something else… I highly recommend it.
Yet I seem to be in the minority. Rather than seeing it as an issue of personal strength, compassion, and helping someone move beyond their own issues, it’s about power. The victim being name called is no longer interested in making themselves stronger, they’re interested in becoming more powerful. This is the era of the victim shaming the bully.
If we could teach everyone the simple philosophy of not taking things personally, the effectiveness of name calling would disappear. When something is no longer effective, we tend to stop using it. We become stronger, we become wiser, and we move forward. Instead, we’re more interested in giving the victims the power to hurt them back. Laws are being changed for compelled speech. What does being triggered in this context mean? What happens when being triggered is an excuse to tap into that power?
I also can’t help but see this dynamic in women’s empowerment. I remember finding out that I was a feminist back in university because I believed in equality. It made sense to me that men and women were different but equal. But I struggle to resonate with parts of modern feminism. There seems to be this pursuit of equal outcome over equal opportunity. A denial of inconvenient biology. A tendency to deal in absolutes instead of nuances. And what drives it all, seems to be a pursuit of power over the pursuit of equality.
I don’t think it’s that complicated either. For decades, centuries, or millennia (however you want to look at it), men have been powerful. They’ve ruled, they’ve warred, they’ve killed, they’ve raped, and they’ve pillaged. Things are different now. In an age of equality, women want to be powerful too. They’re no longer looking for a seat at the table, now they want equal rights to be the asshole boss at the table. I suppose that is equality, I suppose I’m just a little bummed out that there isn’t a motivation to be better.
I sometimes joke that I feel sorry for Hilary Clinton for having lost the 2016 election. She could’ve been a role model for feminism. She lost when she ran against Obama, but had the composure to pick her self up and run again. Then she went up against one of feminism’s greatest foes, keeping her composure throughout. Had it not been for Russian interference, she probably would’ve won that presidency. She couldn’t have been a role-model for feminism, right? One of the bigger reasons why Hilary lost, was because for many, she was indistinguishable from the Washington establishment. She literally spent her entire career learning how to play within a corrupt, man’s world to the point where she probably played it better than anyone else – Just in time for the American public to be fed up with it. I felt bad for women that they missed out on their first female president, but I had hope.
My hope is that the first woman to be elected president, be the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, locomotion of intelligence, strength, integrity and all the qualities of a great leader, but without the sacrifice of feminine qualities like compassion, intuition, and ability to nurture. I want her to be able to set the bar. Not just for future women, but for future men and politics in general. I want her to inspire us to look up to women, not to reasons to avoid looking down on them.
In the pursuit of equality, women are looking at men, and trying to draw the line 50/50 through it all. You don’t want it all. A lot of it is garbage. Please don’t take the garbage too. We’d all be way better off if we could leave it behind, and this is an opportunity to do so. This power isn’t something you want, it’s something that none of us should want. We need to let it go. But we need help. We need a little leadership.
It’s not power that you want, it’s strength. It can be tough to tell the difference when you look at the people holding you down and the most obvious difference between you is power. But they’re not strong. That’s why your strength makes their power irrelevant.
You can have a world where everyone is strong, but not a world where everyone is powerful. For someone to be powerful, someone else must be powerless. Strength however, resides within. A world in which everyone pursues power is chaos. A world in which everyone pursues inner-strength is peace.