Thursday 13 September 2007

Power- It Will Always Corrupt

I posted recently about the Nazis and how something people thought so good turned out to be pretty awful.

Thing is, it's not just the Nazis.

Give anyone enough power for long enough, things go wrong.
And we need to get to grips with why.

The odd thing is, we should have learned two thousand years ago.

In 47AD, Julius Caesar decided the world was too complicated, Rome's empire was so big, it couldn't be trusted in the hands of popularly elected officials, who had bought their offices with Rome's new found wealth.

Whatever the semantics of whether or not he counts as the first Emperor, the fact is he created a true Living God.
A human being to be worshipped.
The Roman Emperors.

Now, we know this had it's downside. Good for the Empire as a whole, maybe, but human beings paid the price.
Not all the Emperors were all bad, but the fact remains it didn't pay to be close to the Imperial throne.

And we can see why. Adulation is addictive. Responsibility for the welfare of the world is a huge responsibility for one man.
The sort of person who can stick at this sort of thing and make it work, must be hugely driven, narcissistic and multi-talented.

They will fear for their lives every day, yet never be able to let go.
Go back to being mortal?

Slowly it takes it's toll- especially for the best of them. They have made so many correct decisions, the worship of the World seals their grip on the tiller- it becomes a death grip.
This when they entrench themselves.
And then the paranoia starts.
And the sense of omniscience.

Everyone can be sacrificed, because they now truly see themselves as Messiahs.
Sometimes, a part of them is.

The weak become Caligulas, the strong become Stalins.

Curtailing the power of these types is usually a start, but even so, after ten years running a country, most of them have lost the plot.
We have put a person in a position the stress of which could cause a total nervous breakdown, and give them the codes to our nuclear missiles.

And after a while, they almost adopt the royal 'we'.

Thatcher after eleven years had certainly taken in too much of her own myth. I dread to think what she would have been like, had she had dictatorial powers.
But looking at the Miner's strike, I can guess.
And let's be honest, I think Tony's Thinkpol would have been extremely sinister, if he'd had the chance.
Look what he's managed without dictatorial powers.

So too much power in too few hands, just isn't really a good thing.
Centralised Executives are pretty dangerous, because the office holders go a bit nuts after a while and starting using their powers in the wrong ways.

It's just not sensible.
It's a burden. It should be shared.

As a responsible species, we should all be taking up that share in our own government that is the true ideal of true democracy.

Not screwing up some poor deluded guys who were looking for a buzz and found a burden, then wondering why people get hurt.


Anonymous said...

I just don't think the human consciousness is equipped to handle power, that's why it will always turns on itself and hence corrupts itself and its surroundings.

Give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the center of the universe.

Anonymous said...

Very good post Crushed, but it doesn't happen only at the upper levels.

Think of customs and immigration officials. Almost fifty years ago I lived in London for two years and travelled constantly in and out of GB. The people who were always pulled over to have their bags opened and checked were always of ethnic origin. You might say this was a racial issue but in fact this was an abuse of power. They had it and they used it as they saw fit. I travelled constantly with friends, one of whom was Indian and never once did he go unchecked while we never were.
Another immigration story was me going into the US from Canada on my Australian passport after 40 years in Canada but stopped by a US immigration official who wanted to know why I had not taken out Canadian citizenship. Huh? What bloody business is it of his? It was a technical reason, of the Australians not allowing dual citizenship until 2002, when I immediately became Canadian.
Sorry to go off on a tangent.

Anonymous said...

The really dangerous people are the puppet masters behind the puppets.

Anonymous said...

Not meaning to make your post sound trivial at all, but it reminded me of the film V is for Vendetta (which I LOVED btw)
Those who come into power begin as protectors and showing us all the 'right way' to be, but then their own self importance swallows them up and paranoia sets in.

I would hate to have that sort of responsibility. How could you keep your two feet on the ground?

Anonymous said...

Mr Crushed,
Don't be dissin' the Blessed Margaret. Thatcher passionately believed in the rights of property and the rule of law, in the extraordinary fruitfulness of enterprise and in the Western cultural heritage without which our liberty would long ago have collapsed into tyranny.In short, she was a true Conservative. Bush, for example, isn't. Indeed, the Bush Administration's absolute grip on power between 2001 and 2006 served as a warning of the dangers of centralised executive power.A political conservative does not confuse government with country. Patriotism means loyalty to country. Bush, however, demands allegiance to his government: "You are with us or against us!" Critics of the Bush administration are branded "unpatriotic" and even "treasonous". Thatcher would never have adopted such an approach.Other than tax cuts—which have benefited the rich only because the rich paid, and still pay, most of the taxes—virtually nothing of conservative substance has happened under Bush. The US Government is more expansive and expensive than ever before. Bush is certainly no ally of limited, constitutional government. Pre-emptive war, which encourages war for such vague humanitarian ends as "human rights," or because the United States believes another country may pose a threat to it, is not part of genuine Conservative thinking.
Power really does corrupt, but it is as true that corrupt people seek power. And that's true throughout much of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Anonymous said...

Romans, Greeks, Nazis. All gone and we are still here!

Anonymous said...

The lust for power will always be addictive to those that get a taste of it and it will always eventually corrupt.
That's what I believe anyhow.

Anonymous said...

Excellent perception Alexys-"Give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the center of the universe."

Anonymous said...

For once I agree with you. Too much power makes for poor consideration of the consequences of one's actions.

Which is why we need a written constitution to clarify and restrict our leaders' powers and to make them accept their responsibilities to the citizens.

Anonymous said...

I agree. power corrupts which is why our governments should have far less power than they do now. going towards a swiss system would mean power was in the hands of the people and not the government.

Anonymous said...

I think I would be a good Dictator - not like Stalin, Caligula or Mugabe - but kind and benevolent... all I would require is a retinue of slave girls....ahem...

Anonymous said...

Alexys- Unfortunately, it is very much equipped to handle it in some ways.
We are programmed to enjoy the sense of success, of positive interaction- power gives us a rush.

Thing is, it's like a muscle, you have keep using it to get the buzz.
And you have to keep using more to get the same feel, like any drug.

Power is possibly the most addictive drug there is- because having it really is the sweetest of pleasures.
I can see that myself, even when I've only possessed a fairly small amount- it's very scary how it can take you over.

The Lord of the Rings is a powerful tale.

jmb- Well, I guess I've part answered this above, but yes.
Interestingly, these Little Hitlers are easy to spot.
The old snigger we all make when we see them in action is so true 'bet he was bullied at school.'
And it's true- the only get to use power when given them, they are by nature UNcharismatic people.

So they never acquire REAL power. They'll never conquer a heart or a mind.

Golden- The real tyrants of history have been in control both in name and in fact- their huge egos ensure they could not hide in the shadows.
The world would hear their name.

That's the crucial point about the ones i refer to here- they seek deification to combat mortality.

Betty- You can't, that's the point. You don't need to. Who stops if you don't?
You can feed your power addiction, and the whole world is there to feed it.
That's the truth behind tyranny.

The tyrant starts to derive pleasure in suffering, simply to prove to himself that no matter what he does, he will be obeyed.

Stan- I have a lot of time for some of what she did- The Falklands, making the country feel good about itself, standing up to the EU, etc.

But she did go a bit mad in her last years in power and is pretty senile now.

It corrupted Thatcher, big time.

Jeremy- Yes, there is hope in that. We've come a long way as a species, in spite of that seemingly ingrained wish to deify people from time to time.

Steph- The thing is to make sure people don't get it.
I say that, because I know if you offered me the Ring, I'd take it.
Always thought that when I read LOR, really grasped that fact when I first saw the film.

To the user, power is like Cocaine.
But they get the highs, and give the people pain of the addiction.

Ubermouth- Yes, but monkeys are pretty cute, so I have no problem with them thinking they are the centre of the universe.
The belief wouldn't harm anyone. He's still only a monkey.

Ed- Devolved, separated powers (as in separation US style), within an International framework must be the answer to me.
Sparate Legislatures from executives everywhere, severely curtail Executives (maybe make them in to true committees), and spread power over as many elected bodies as you can.

We need to do this soon.

Because a nutter in charge of nukes is dangerous.

YDKM- The Swiss system is good, yes, kind of along the lines I'm thinking.

We need to purge these ideas of leadership principles and national saviours.

1997 wasn't 1933, but looking at it, it was a similar dynamic.

Anonymous said...

Mutley- Harun Al Rashid.
Greatest of the Abbasid Caliphs.

A real benevolent despot.

There's your model!

Anonymous said...

Another well written piece. Thing is, not everyone wants to be involved in running the country. Many people are just followers, I guess; that's how the leaders lead... :-)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Yes, all power corrupts - eventually and, as you say, what kind of person wants it to that extent in the first place, given the risks to their safety?

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying but in each of their lives there came a time where other people began to tell them how godlike they were and that's when their power grew to uncontrollable proportions. There are many people that believe themselves to be extra special but until and unless they get a devoted following they will have no power. Once the power is achieved, it is hard to stop and becomes dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I was actually reflecting on similar processes in celebrities lately-- the weird power we give to these people by virtue of having, say, a nice smile, and the ability to act their way out of a paperbag or sing a simple note-- plus, given the fact that many of us also possess these skills, just add in a dash of luck. What on earth is inherent to those few qualities that makes us perfectly okay with giving them such power? And what does it do to a person to feel as though they are superior because they can act? It's a little odd if you take a second to reflect on it...

Anonymous said...

Eve- You are right, but running the country need not be the way it us.
If we sdistributed the governing better, it would not be burdensome.
It just involves educating the people to understand the decisions they take.

Welshcakes- Well, the urge to it is in all of us. And if you think about it, those who crave it are often those with most to offer.

But ultimately, having no one to trust, but everryone to adore you, changes the interaction process es that drive such people.
Using power becomes their ONLY connection.

Golden Nib- The paradox is, that these very people ARE in a sense Godlike. Why do we call them Messianic?
This is the thing, they often are driven by some understanding of the universe beyond the ordinary, they often stand above us seeing further.
And so we give ourselves to them, to lead us to the promised land.

Sometimes, they take us there, though it costs.

Princess P- There is a curios facet of out character needs to worship. Sad truth is, must people want to worship. It's because we are pack animals. Most are happiest NOT being leader. They need to be reassured they are NOT leader, and have someone to look up to.

Celebrety culture means evertone can pick their own 'leader'.