Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Real Nature of Power

In contemporary culture, power has become associated with economic strength as measured by the accumulation of wealth.  This essential conception regarding the nature of power is embraced by nation states, communities and ultimately by individuals.  Nations pursue their global economic interests by any means at their disposal including the unabashed use of military might with the ultimate aim of utilizing and accumulating wealth and, therefore, power.  This has become the standard model through which nations measure their own success and standing in the world community.

Within this social ethos, individuals have likewise been conditioned to assess their own personal development and success in life in completely analogous terms.  Individuals tend to rate their own measure of success and standing within the community by the amount of wealth accumulated and the conspicuous display of such wealth.  Conversely, a failure to enhance one’s material riches is taken as evidence of personal failure and, by implication a measure of a flawed personality – in modern parlance, such a person is often described as a loser.  The news media reinforces this point of view by paying special homage to those individuals possessing great wealth and influence and elevating the most trivial aspects of their lives to special scrutiny at the expense of reporting on those aspects of living that are of a more essential nature.  The net result of this kind of exposure is to ultimately trivialize that which is of importance and exaggerate that which is trivial.

An inevitable consequence of this worldview is the development of a hierarchy of power that can be represented as a pyramid with the wealthiest individuals occupying the rarefied atmosphere at the top with the remainder of this pyramid occupied by those who have been deemed of far less significance.  Those at the top have come to regard themselves as uniquely different than those “below” them and inherently superior.  Within this narcissistic view, they have come to regard themselves as living outside the boundaries of ordinary reality and not subject to the usual societal constraints on behavior.  They have deemed themselves to be free from feelings of compassion, caring and love that ordinarily serve to moderate behavior motivated by self-interest.

In reality, this conception of supremacy is more reflective of impotence than real power.  Real power cannot flow from material acquisition no matter how masterfully or skillfully accomplished.  Real power does not emanate from the barrel of a gun no matter how big or how deadly it might be.

An individual exhibiting genuine power does so naturally through the ability to be present within the moment – to be essentially grounded in reality without the desire to redefine or reshape what is imminently evident to fit a self-generated image of what that reality should be.  Real power requires the ability to see clearly – both eyes wide opened – and to allow the senses to reveal the true nature of the external environment.  It is such power that allows the possibility of true self-knowledge and ultimately self-realization.  Real power requires the capacity to listen and to be effected by what is heard, seen and felt.  Real power is, after all, the natural product of love stemming from a profound compassion and deep-seated humility – hubris effectively diminishes power by making those who carry such a burden blind to the real and tangible relationships that actually exist in the world.  Avarice and greed – from which hatred naturally flows – overlay reality with artificial conceptions and, therefore, introduce a formidable obstacle to true human progress.

The unfortunate burden of the accepted idea of the nature of power is the horrendous and unnecessary suffering that it imposes upon both the world of humans and the natural world we inhabit.  Such a conception is fundamentally flawed and inherently false; it is an idea that has not served humanity well.  Whether or not the human kind possesses the aptitude to discard what is patently false and develop a new social and ethical paradigm that is more confluent with the true nature of reality is matter open to serious question.  

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