We choose poorly when we determine “power” is more important than people. That is when our politics turn bad.
Our preview of Are Americans Really this _________? Are Politicians Really this _________? continues with Chapter 7 – People, Power and Politics. If you would rather listen to this content CLICK HERE.
Shall we review?
A vital few things matter while the trivial many do not.
Personal power is just that, personal. And it is meant to help people realize their full potential.
We can exercise personal power; think, connect, collaborate and create together; or we can compete in the jungle; with everyone, everywhere, all the time.
Personal power demands responsibility: a burden people often reject.
When a “me” “me first” or every-man-for-himself sentiment prevails, people seek to dominate and control others.
A “me, me first” world is a “survival of the fittest” world. Survival of the fittest means “might makes right,” and “might makes right” always results in the many serving the few.
The nature of power is corrosive. Seizing others’ power is destructive.
Now we expand to the “we” dimension to figure out what the heck is going on.
Through painful experience human beings have learned and learned again, over millennia, that progress only comes when we work together for mutual benefit. When we connect, collaborate and create society advances.
In our fast-paced, material-oriented society however, it is particularly easy to lose that sense of our personal power. Bombarded by media messages and social influence we come to believe success and ultimately happiness depend on controlling what is out there. We believe having more – more of everything – is how we achieve happiness. And since money buys stuff, we want more money.
Money has become the ultimate proxy for power. And power is control over things, circumstances, and people. The more money someone has the more people that person controls. Money represents power. In a “me first” world the quest for power is on.
Money facilitates trade: commerce and the functioning of markets.
The fundamental purpose of commerce or business is to create value and then exchange that value – helping people get what they want. The exchange adds value for all parties engaging in a transaction. Everyone gets something of value, something they want. Commerce is a magical thing. Commerce is how economies are built. Helping others get what they want by adding value through business is profoundly life-affirming.
But as the sentiment shifts from “we” win-win exchanges, to “me first” win-lose exchanges, getting more for myself; more money, more wealth and therefore more power; becomes the dominant, the paramount concern.
Increasingly business and market competition come to be seen as war. And in war there are casualties. Instead of being life-affirming, business becomes a means of acquiring power and dominating and subjugating. Accumulating money becomes me competing for my piece of the pie. In a “survival of the fittest” world accumulating money becomes the path to getting what I want. External power is the goal. Money is the means. More money means more control over what I have, do, experience, and ultimately feel.
Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, in his 1651 book Leviathan asserted without a moral governing standard only the law of the jungle applies. Without the courage to accept and use our personal power to connect with the universal mind, no moral governing standard applies.
Hobbes goes on to explain the law of the jungle is “survival of the fittest” a “war of all against all” with no rules and no moderating principles. Hobbes characterized that ultra-competitive struggle as resulting in life being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
In a material-oriented, “me first” society the crumbling of personal finances is the rumblings of war.
The Eighty-Twenty Rule applies to competing.
Select individuals have the assets, attributes, and motivation to compete – manipulate, coerce, intimidate, or dominate most effectively. The big, the strong, the fast and the cunning rule the jungle. The best the masses, the eighty percent, can hope for is to align with winners. Competing alone is a losing proposition. To avoid losing, people band together and take sides.
In the business world as the stakes increase and more money comes into play the competition evolves from adding value to controlling. The war is on. Competitors learn, as money accumulates, power concentrates. By manipulating economic and mass media social levers competitors control the game, the game of power politics. Politics too becomes war by another means.
The sixteenth century Italian philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, determined that in politics only power matters. This sounds increasingly like the jungle. Machiavelli advocated that the ends justify the means. In the jungle only power matters. We see Machiavelli’s sentiment playing out in our contemporary politics.
Right now, money and power are more concentrated than at any time in history. The more power concentrates the more personal finances come unhinged and the more anxious people become. The influence of the power-hungry permeates and unsettles the masses. Here in the United States that anxiety resulted in electing a president who unabashedly promotes a “me first” agenda. Millions upon millions enthusiastically jumped on board exactly the wrong train.
In war, the men and women who compete well, build armies, then skillfully deploy their forces to overwhelm and subdue their foes. The masses, people lacking the skills, talents, and energy to compete for power, or those who are outmaneuvered and overwhelmed succumb to the authority of men and women seizing power. Power concentrates and the many come to serve the few. The corrosive nature of power manifests.
Looked at from one perspective the entire process of people forfeiting their personal power and others seizing and concentrating that power is an abomination: an aberration, an abuse of power. However, it is a component of an ongoing life cycle. It is natural. Something greater than you and me is in charge. The corrosive nature of concentrated power ushers in the decline and death of society – the end of a cycle. Death is a necessary step leading to rebirth.
Each phase of a life cycle has within it elements to advance. Growth follows birth. Maturity follows growth. Decline follows maturity. Death follows decline. And decay follows death. Then birth begins the cycle anew. Birth, growth, maturity, decline, death, decay to rebirth, the cycle continues. All for a purpose. To express more life.
Life presents situations: environmental difficulties and social challenges. When we cooperate and collaborate, we overcome difficulties and challenges and advance. If we continue to connect and collaborate, we grow and prosper. Prosperity however, has within it the seeds for undoing progress. Prosperity allows a “me” sentiment to take root.
The “me” sentiment causes us to abandon our personal power. Abandoning personal power, we compete. We compete for control: external power. We seek to control what is out there: things, circumstances, and people.
Our failure to embrace our personal power results in us destroying ourselves and ultimately setting the lesson up again. Difficulties and challenges have purpose. Difficulties and challenges are the means to growth, fulfillment and ultimately happiness.
Our individual challenge, your challenge and my challenge, the challenge each of us must face, revolves around personal power and personal responsibility.
Do we accept personal power and responsibility and empower ourselves and society?
Or do we reject personal power and responsibility and doom ourselves to perpetual struggle?
Let me know what you think so far – leave a comment below. Look for the last chapter in Part 1 this Thursday.
All the best, Scott