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.