Big Power Does Not Provide Big Answers

Posted on 22 November 2019

Emperor's New Clothes

I stumbled across an old article that asked, is humanity smart enough to save itself from extinction. The author’s answer was “no”. He felt that if we were smart, we would do away with democracy. A strong leader would then force everyone to do the right thing fast enough to avert disaster.

We have several problems when that approach is taken.

First of all anyone with that sort of power is often either already corrupt or becomes corrupted. People who are given too much attention and too much influence start to have difficulty seeing outside of themselves. They have been put in a super-human position, and when they identify with that position, they lose their capacity for humility and empathy. This is why jesters were so important in ancient courts. They kept a ruler from seeing themselves as more than human.

A super-human is unlikely to take wise council. Their mounting vanity will tell them that they already know the answers. People who want a piece of their power, will tell the leader anything they wish to hear while carefully manipulating for what the advisor wants. Followers will be loyal in order to be seen as great by association. They will even encourage their leader to indulge in all the things they have always wanted to do, and live vicariously. They may not have the means to ride around in a golden limousine, but the person they support does, and they enjoy imagining themselves on smooth leather seats swilling down champagne.

We have all seen this in rock stars, movie stars, and buffoon presidents and prime ministers.

You might be saying, ah but what of our social justice leaders? I know a saying that goes,”Never try to meet your heroes, lest they be found to have feet of clay.”

Sometimes a person is in the right place at the right time in order to become a representative public hero. This is what happened to Greta Thunberg. She is wisely upbraiding leaders and pointing to scientists for answers, rather than taking the reigns of power.

Some become wiser and more compassionate in the telling. Quickly they become an icon, and the truth of who they are becomes submerged. Because they have so much media attention, people pin all their hopes onto them. However, the reality is these people are a mixture of light and dark. Quite a number suddenly find they have the power to indulge in their basest desires, and others will cover up their actions. Jimmy Savile is famous for both raising forty million pounds for charity, and secretly committing pedophilia on the very children he puportedly was trying to help. Others have done similar things, but to say anything is to attract their followers’s fury, regardless of incriminating facts.

Sometimes certain people really are that good, BUT their movement relies too heavily upon them for their momentum. Eventually, it becomes clear to some madperson that if this leader is killed, the movement will fall into disarray. Much of the good they were able to create in the world crumbles, because they were made solely responsible for it.

Democracy is not just about ensuring all people are represented in the government of their nation. Democracy is also about diffusing power, so that it is never too concentrated in any one set of hands. There is no magic to the saying that power corrupts. It is a quantifiable result of being set too far above other human beings.

We are running out of time. However, a strong man leader would only ever provide a short-reprieve, if he were capable of making the right choices. We have to stop offering up our power to a few charismatic humans in exchange for their taking responsibility for our big decisions. How many politicians gleefully take your power, while dodging responsibility?

We must change ourselves. We must change our culture. We must start sharing a focus on life-affirming values. We may differ on how to enact these values, but so long as we agree on them, we have some place to start working together for better days.

If you feel that you have to see big results from your actions, in order to feel they are of any worth, then you are still stuck in the days of worshipping at the feet of god emperors. We have to value ourselves and one another for all our contributions: big or small. People who are in a position to make bigger contributions should not be valued above all the other people who are doing the best they can where they are. The size of the contribution is not the point, the point is that we all care, and we are all doing something.

Our biggest challenge right now is just learning how to be friends with one another. Because as friends we will be able to do so much more.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine


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