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Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

By Edited Jan 2, 2016 0 0

Whether it is an interaction with a boss, an argument with a mother, or a debate between two politicians, a power dynamic occurs in every human relationship. We always know who has the power in an interaction, whether we notice it openly or subconsciously. Power manifests itself everywhere: in politics, in the home, in religion and in the world at large. This power is useful when gauging how to act under certain circumstances, but much of the time, this power can be exploited and used destructively. It is very often the downfall of humanity, and is used in the wrong way. It brainwashes the possessors, and slowly eats away at their insides; their hearts, their brains and their morals. Power is a very strong object which conquers many but is impossible to conquer.

No one knows what it is, but there is something intoxicating about power. When people get a small taste of it, they crave more. It is both a motivator and a reward, but more than that, power is overall supremacy. For some reason, humans hunger after power more than anything. We like to feel superior to everyone else, which is the start of a long descent into failure. A famous example of how power destroyed a man was in the case of Joseph Stalin. Ironically, everything communism stands for is equality. Yet once Stalin received the baton of power from Lenin, he ran full speed ahead, cheating throughout the entire race. He did everything possible to hang onto this power, killing whoever stood in his way. Textbooks describe him as a ‘murderous tyrant’ whose power resulted in the death of millions. His absolute power destroyed him and everyone around him.

If you take a look at any interaction, you will be able to tell who has the power. A child of four will act defiant and naughty around his lenient mother, as he knows he can get away with it, but he will then act more subdued and quiet in front of a strict, no-nonsense teacher. Although this child is too young to understand the concept of power, he has internalised this philosophy subconsciously. An example would be Arthur Huntingdon, from Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. From a very young age, Arthur was spoilt and indulged by his mother. His mother ‘indulged him to the top of his bent, doing her utmost to encourage those germs of folly and vice it was her duty to suppress.’ By allowing Arthur too much power, his mother leads him to his demise of eventual alcoholism and dissipation. The power of parenthood needs to be measured and supervised, as it can easily develop into the future downfall of an ignorant four year old.

 There is huge power invested in religion, and this power is very often taken out of context and abused. The true power in religion, in my opinion, is the fact that people can have so much faith in something that has no proof, that in a world with so much corruption and hatred, people can still believe in something so pure and true as a God. However, many people see the God-fearing, Hell-threatening aspects as the power in religion. People tend to get very self-righteous and defensive of their religion, believing the power in their religion is supreme and superlative above all the rest. This very often results in wars, people being brainwashed with the fallacy of power in religion. Many turn their backs on any alternatives and challenges to their religion. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the conservative, Christian Puritan society is based on fear and seriousness. They see the power of Christianity in the form of condemnation. They view innocent fun such as dancing as a sin. Their mistranslation of the power of religion results in a permanent state of austerity and rigour. The citizens corrupted themselves with the misconception of power in their religion. Another example of the abuse of power in religion is the Crusades. The Roman Catholics believed their stem of religion was the dominant religion of the world. The Crusades were a series of wars lasting for more than 200 years. The Catholics used power to seize control of Israel and to force other religions into conversion. This is an illustration of one of the lowest points in religious history, the power of religion being perverted and misused to cause harm.

Power is everywhere. It is completely unavoidable. A childhood friend of mine has recently become very wealthy due to her father’s new work venture, causing a sudden colossal influx of money. She was always the most humble and generous girl in primary school. I remember one day I left my lunch at home, but when break time came, I found a lunch in my locker with a note saying ‘Enjoy!’ stuck on top. I recognized her writing and when I asked her about it, she denied it with a guilty smile. I noticed that she didn’t have lunch, and surmised that she must have bought me lunch with her own money, sacrificing her meal. This was just a small example of her generosity in the past. When I saw her a month ago, I could have sworn it was a totally different girl. She strode right past me, platinum blond hair flailing behind her. She pretended initially not to know me, but miraculously found space for me in her mind, amongst her Gucci and Prada handbags, taking up the majority of her thoughts. I sincerely wished that I had mistaken her for somebody else; so that she would leave and I would sill have the innocent, untainted, eleven year old memory of her preserved in my mind. However, she decided to stay and chat to me about parties, boys, shoes and weight, obviously the things that interested her most. I was simultaneously bored to death and painfully disappointed by this stranger. The power of money had transformed her into an entirely new person, a tainted person. She was completely and irreversibly corrupted by this new power that had manifested itself in her life.

Whoever you are, whatever you do, I strongly believe that no one is safe from the corruption of power. Perhaps, initially, people may handle power with responsibility, but once power has leaked into one’s mind, one may be changed forever. Power is like a drug, it inhibits one’s judgements and morals, and one can easily become addicted. It is incredibly influential, and most become permanently damaged once infected. 

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