When you hear the word “Power”, what is the first thing that comes into your mind: Money, Politicians, Industrialists, Electricity (with blue bolts and what not), beauty, strength?
What is power?
We are the Internet generation, the generation motivated by media and instant gratification either for information or for material needs. Media or lets say its biggest representative like Internet, TV, movies; has been extremely successful in painting the picture of what power is. We are told that money is power, controlling people is power, beauty is power, strength is power. So we all are part of the belief system that what we possess that can influence others and increase our chance of not only survival but indulging in as much luxury as possible is power.
We have lapped this up with all our hearts: treating the rich as deities, ignoring injustice or unfair treatment because its being endorsed by someone with money or beauty, and above all judging: Judging the rest of the world with that barometer of power which has been force fed onto our soul by the so called “powerful”.
Now I don’t mean that the above-mentioned possessions do not indicate possession of power. They do. The question is: when?
When is the possession of money, status, beauty and strength an indication of how powerful a person is?
The answer is quite simple. It’s when these contribute to fulfilling the intentions of the possessors of the aforementioned attributes. For example, a person with copious amount of cash wants to buy a palace. There is a very high likelihood that he/she will be able to buy one despite the fact that he may have, lets say, 3 people in his family. This does not make any sense. 3 human beings do not need a palace to live. But he intends to live in a palace. He wields the power of money. Now lets say, a politician supervising 200 people’s work is involved in a criminal activity with multiple witnesses who happen to be working under his command. He may very well continue living without consequence since he wields the power of taking away the livelihood of the witnesses or worse depending on the level of corruption in his field. In the same way, stronger people may bully others, may rape or murder without consequence, celebrities may be worshipped for basically looking a certain way and coaxing everyone else to doing what they suggest fulfilling their intent to influence and coax others respectively.
The discussion leads to one inference that power is very subjective. Some consider buying as power, some, undisturbed breaking of law and some consider superiority of physical attributes as power. Understood. But when do these attribute actually become POWER?
It’s when possession translates to acquisition.
When a rich person is allowed to buy a palace, the authorities give him/her that power. When we are scared of someone hurting us, we give them the power. When we let ourselves be coaxed by celebrities to buy something or to become like the, we give them the power to make us feel in adequate.
In the grand scheme of things, when one finds someone wielding extreme “power” chances are that one will find someone extremely “weak”. Because one is considered by the rest of the world, himself and the “weak”, powerful, only then he feels “powerful”. There is no badge of power, no tattoo that says “Look at me, I have so much power” The true badge is what the rest of the people allow that person to do. The permission without consequence.
Power is not always malevolent. But in that case it is not really referred to as power, is it?
No one calls Mahatma Gandhi powerful. He had his own set of problems but he had achieved unity amongst the people of India that was needed at the testing times of a group of people learning to stand on their own feet. Malala Yousufzai is not referred to as powerful. Instead, she is referred to as hope, light, future, empowerment, etc.
Lets take me for example, at times I feel that I am so fat, that being the one constant nag of almost all women. Despite the fact that I KNOW that I am not, just because I don’t look like some people, I deem myself fat. FAT being the term spoilt by media. FAT people, FAT cow, FAT in the food. Despite the fact that Fats are just some molecules that happen to be in our food, excess of which makes our body unhealthy, applicable to just about anything in life.
At these moments I give power to those nasty people who create an atmosphere and rigorously endorse the fact that people who are bigger (or skinnier) than some people are not good enough, pretty enough, worthy enough.
When we are growing up we try to figure the purpose of our lives, most of the time without even thinking about it. We spend all our lives wanting to get that job, get that spouse, get those children, get that house, get that gold club membership, jewelry, grades, degrees and what not, there is no end. Why?
For some of us, it could be simply be…because….
The above sentence makes no sense. But for some of us, we think we need the above because we grew up with people who wanted these things and thus these must be great to get. It’s like living on autopilot when we don’t have to worry about why, we just do what others did and they seemed to have done alright. And why not? All power to those since there are no right reasons.
However to judge others by your standard of power is not only inappropriate but wildly incorrect since others may not associate power with possessing those things. For example, a tribeswoman in remote Africa does not associate your possession of your 100-dollar note as power. If Bill Gates travels to those remote regions, he will have no special privileges because those people don’t give him the power to feel special and vice versa.
How would it be if we freed ourselves from people asking us to judge them for the colour of their skin, depth of their pocket, shape of their body, position of their job, or size of their muscles?
It’s not necessary that we do. But we may find a whole new respect for us and others if we simply try not narrowing down our definition of power so much.