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People, Power and Politics

A vital few things matter while the trivial many do not.

Personal power is just that; personal, and it’s 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.

Personal power demands responsibility; a burden people often reject.

When a “me” or “every man for himself” sentiment prevails people seek to control others.

A “me, me first” world is a “survival of the fittest” world. Survival of the fittest means “might make right,” and “might makes right” always results in the many serving the few.

“Me first” is an effort to dominate and subjugate.

Seizing others’ power – is actually corrosive.

Now let’s expand to the “we” dimension to figure out what’s 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’s particularly easy to lose sense of our personal power. Bombarded by media messages and social influence we come to believe success and ultimately happiness depends on controlling what’s 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; control over circumstances and people. The more money someone has the more people that person controls. Money represents power, and the quest for power is on.

Money is a function of commerce and markets.

The fundamental purpose of commerce or business is adding value by helping others get what they want. In turn, after adding value, the business person gets what he or she wants. It’s a magical thing. It’s how economies are built. Helping others through business is life-affirming.

But as the sentiment shifts from “we” to “me”, getting more for myself; more money, more wealth and therefore more power; becomes the paramount concern.

Increasingly business and market competition is seen as war. And there are casualties. Business becomes a means of acquiring power and achieving victory.

Acquiring 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. I say without the courage to accept and use our personal power to connect with the universal mind, spirit, 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 also 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 eighty percent, the masses can hope for is to align with winners. Competing alone is a losing proposition; so people join 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 other means.

The sixteenth century Italian philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, determined that in politics only power matters. Sounds like the jungle to me.

Machiavelli advocated that “the ends justify the means.” In the jungle only power matters and we’re seeing that play out in our politics in real time.

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 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 and skillfully deploy their forces 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. 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.

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; it allows a “me” sentiment to take root.

The “me” sentiment causes us to abandon our personal power which ultimately ignites that competition for control; external power; control over what’s out there – 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 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 these and empower ourselves and society?

Or do we reject these and doom ourselves to perpetual struggle?

Let’s move on purpose to our final session.

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Written by

Scott F. Paradis