I’ve been trying to understand power. What is it? Why do people want it? What does it help you accomplish? Is it something I should pursue?
A younger me sought power for the sake of doing good. Average me could do some good, powerful me could do lots of good. Seemed like power was only a bad thing when in the hands of bad people. I suspect that’s the understanding most people are under. I’m not so sure.
Consider this… If we accept this idea that only good people should be powerful, then we’ll actively look to empower those who we think are good while tearing down those who we think are bad. Sounds like most of history right? But who gets to decide who is good and who is bad? It’s not always so obvious. And what happens when the powerless become powerful? Do we achieve balance? Or do we create another dominance hierarchy?
The first quote that ever stuck with me was, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So by empowering someone, what are we really doing? If we look throughout history, the powerful have never been without corruption. It didn’t matter at which point in history, or which culture, or which political ideology you followed, power corrupted all. Yet when we see corruption among the powerful and call foul, our first instinct is to take the power from them.
That’s probably the beauty of democracy, the power of the people is distributed among the people. At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.
So is everything just about power? Being the oppressor or being the oppressed? I doubt it. There has to be another level to this.
What about me? What would I do if I had power? As someone who prioritizes integrity and the good of others, how would I be corrupted. What if my intentions were to do the best I could for everyone I was responsible for. What if my inner circle included everyone? Why doesn’t that sound like power?
I have an idea.
What if power was the anti-thesis of efficiency? Here’s a simple example: You have someone within a company who gets to hire any person of their choosing for a position. When that person hires their friend instead of the best candidate, it’s a demonstration of power. When that person hires the best candidate, it’s a demonstration of efficiency. It doesn’t matter how powerful a person is, as long as they’re making the best decision for everyone involved, it’s an exercise in efficiency. It only becomes an exercise in power when those involved disagree with the decision being made. Why would you need to impose your will when your decisions are best for everyone and are being welcomed by others?
This idea of only the good should be powerful… there’s another level to it. The reason why we have such a hard time agreeing on who should be powerful is because we have such a hard time agreeing on who (or what) is good. If we could come up with a decision which we universally recognized as good… it would be because it was what was most beneficial to those involved. If that decision was to the immense benefit of everyone involved, I have a hard time perceiving that as power. Taking everyone’s needs into consideration and deciding what was best for everyone involved seems like a remarkable if not impossible exercise in efficiency.
Perhaps we’ve established two ends of a spectrum.