A few observations about the nature of power…

1st Observation

 This is story depicted in Spike and Mike Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation inVancouver many moons ago.  Picture an ordinary plane floating in space.  It has four corners and sits suspended in ether.  From the bottom of the plane, at  each corner, pops up four faceless and genderless figures.   They stand at each corner balancing the plane.  One person steps forward disturbing the balance and the plane tips slightly.  The other three take one step forward, towards the middle, and the equilibrium is restored.  The initiator experiences a sense of power, so he tries something else.  He moves sideways to his right, and the other  3 follows suit, sidestepping the same amount of distance in the same direction.  It is a game of “Simon Says”.  If the other three do exactly as the first man, then the balance of the plane is maintained.  The game continues a little longer with the initiator toying with his companions.  It is a dance without unison.  The initiator manipulates the situation; choreographing the whole show.  His next bold move is to shove one of the men off the plane, leaving the other two to help balance of the plane which proves a more difficult task.  The initiator now plans to to separate his remaining two.  Though faceless, the other two communicates with the turn of their heads their fear.  “This person wants to get rid of us.”  They turn from each other to look at their fiendish companion.  The three figures form an equilateral triangle on the plane.  Each stands in a wide stance to maximize the surface area that they can balance.  The initiator inches towards one man and the other two move prevent tipping the plane.  The initiator gets bold and runs towards one man and pushes him off the edge.  Only two remaining now, like a see-saw.  Finalyy, the Initator jumps up, and the moment he’s in the air the plane tips sidesways and the other man falls off the edge.  Helands in the middle of the plane, balanced in one point and stands alone.  Seemingly satisfied he puts his fists in the air in a “V”.  But now he is stuck.  He cannot move freely along the plane, because he’s the only weight left to maintain the balance of the plane.  He stands alone.

2nd Observation

 “The tendency of power to drive intelligence underground;

The tendency of power to become a theology, admitting no other gods before it;

The tendency of power to distort and damage the traditions and institutions it was designed to protect;

The tendency of power to create a language of its own, making other forms of communication incoherent and irrelevant;

The tendency of power to spawn imitators, leading to volatile competitions;

The tendency of power to set the stage for its own use.”

 Source:  “The Pathology of Power” by Norman Cousins.

 3rd Observation

“John Leonard, while editor of the New York Times Book Review”, contended that statistics are an abstraction which explain why “our ethical systems haven’t caught up with the social fact of the way we live now…”  It compares the jailing of a father who beats his son versus the fining, a minor reprimand, of a company that distributes spoiled milk to thousands of children and is therefore responsible for killing – according to statistical analysis – several of those children…” 

 “If accountability is abstract, a random sample, a scatter curve, it means very little to us, because we are first and foremost individuals, not citizens.  To quantify us is to enslave us to likelihoods, probabilities…  We haven’t grown up at all from “I” to “we”, and our childhood is hazardous to all of us.” – John Leonard

 An abstraction can be doublethink, George Orwell’s word for “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would ring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.”  The unforgettable example in Orwell’s great novel1984, inelegant lettering on the glittering white concrete face of the Ministry of Truth, were:




Source:  “Power Inc.” by Morton Mintz & Jerry S. Cohen

 4th Observation

The psychology of Evil was examined by a psychiatrist in the book “The People of the Lie – The Hope for Healing Human Evil”.  The author, Dr. Scott Peck used his years of experience as a psychiatrist as a basis of his study.  He documents cases which exemplifies human evil and he tries to define evil. 

 “Pride goeth before the fall,” it is said, and of course laymen simply call pride what we have labeled with the fancy psychiatric term of “malignant narcissism.”  Being at the very root of evil, it no accident that Church authorities have generally considered pride first among the sins.”  It is not the pride that comes with doing a job well done and a healthy build-up of a sense of worth.  He describes the type of pride that is arrogant, and rejects “and even attack the judgment implied by the day-to-day evidence of their own inadequacy.” 

The author cannot explain why an excessive self-absorption afflicts one individual but not another, but surmises that it is a learned pattern.   

“a leading theory of the genesis of pathological narcissism is that it is a defensive phenomenon.  Since almost all children demonstrate a formidable array of narcissistic characteristics, it is assumed that narcissism is something we generally “grow out of” in the course of normal development, though a stable child hood, under the care of loving and understanding parents.  If the parents are cruel and unloving, however, or the childhood otherwise traumatic, it is believed that the infantile narcissism will be preserved as a kind of psychological fortress to protect the child against the vicissitudes of its intolerable life.  This theory might well apply to  the genesis of human evil.”

The book weaves in many layers of stories and analysis of the cause and effect of savage, brutal acts of evil practiced by individuals and groups of people, including governments and nations.

Fifth Observation (via the book:  “People of the Lie”)

An excerpt from Erich Fromm’s book, “The Heart of Man:  Its Genius for Good and Evil”:

Our capacity to choose changes constantly with our practice of life.  The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our hearts hardens; the more often we make the right decision, the more our heart softens – or better perhaps, comes alive… Each step in life which increases my self-confidence, my integrity, my courage, my conviction also increases my capacity to choose the desirable alternative, until eventually it becomes more difficult for me to choose the undesirable rather than the desirable action.”  Conversely, a person who chooses acts that brings a false sense of self-worth by excessive self-importance will likely loses the perspective of other choices and possibilities that bring about harmony in community.

 I blogged on this topic earlier this week, but I took it down because it was too heavy for me to carry it with good effect.  And I still am not doing it justice.  What I can bring from my original post of the blog is this:  Our true power is in our ability for empathy, and we have the free will to choose what we focus our attention on in our thoughts and actions.  Certainly random thoughts and the byproduct emotions come and go, but it a choice of what we focus our attention to.

2 thoughts on “Power

    1. Hi Diane,

      Thank you for reading. This has been an ongoing research for me for my play, “Original Sin”. I came across M. Scott Peck’s first book on this series. It is called “The Road Less Travelled”. That one is worthwhile reading too, and it’s a good introduction to “People of the Lie”. I’m in my second pass through the book, and it’s very hard to digest. Interestingly, I actually had the title to my play before reading his books, and there was a chapter in “The Road Less Travelled” about Original Sin, and his idea of it. He thinks Original Sin is plain laziness. That idea is worthwhile exploring deeper into also…


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