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Units of Power and Other Social Currencies

"Power does not necessarily imply the wish to destroy... (t)he question is why some people use power to destroy." Richard Koenigsberg

The question for me - is why I see everything in the political/economic world as a contest for more and more power?  Who can argue that our obsession with money is not about power?  If you have money you can hire people to do your work for you. You have banks eager to gain more business from you. You can pressure politicians with your lobbies. You can change the mandates of higher learning. You can bring other wealthy people together for global conferences. You can influence the UN and the EU, and since November 2016, you can even destroy America.

So I wish to defend my obsession with how power is destroying our civil societies. I come from a place where family ruled my world. They interpreted reality for me. They measured my worth with their judgemental comments. They told me what my intentions were, what I was thinking, and what I hoped to gain.  At the time I did not see this as power, but concern and care.

From here I learned about morality, civilization and history from the classroom where I was a vacuous sponge.  I learned how to stay in a job. How to negotiate my needs with the needs of the company. I learned from older men and women about how to succeed in the job and in my life. I wedded the ideas of my partner to my own. But I also made mistakes by false beliefs.

I started out as a child needing to win, to prove I was worthy of the pain my mother suffered. I needed to win because I was afraid of my father who gave me instructions and who spent his life working to feed and house me. I needed to be aware of fashion - not be consumed by it, but to appear normal  to my peers and superiors.

What was the prize? What did I want to win ultimately? I wanted to belong, to have dignity and respect.  So here was I in this capitalist structure that told me I was a consumer who had to appear successful.

Success - this carrot on a stick - is rarely one you can control. Who will like you, employ you, who will hate you, who will care for you when you have a breakdown because you haven't learned that you are not in control no matter what you do or how much you learn. But that was the myth I internalized. Like Willy Loman I believed I had to play all the right roles to be 'well liked'.

There were many times I failed, in ways I told myself I would never fail. I was staunch in my  rejection of failure, and yet I failed and failed again in my own self-esteem. I remember times when I felt like throwing all our china on the floor, slamming the door until it broke. I got really scared when I felt an urgent need to go out to beat up somebody or something. Earlier in my life I was the target but never the fighter, and could never imagine raising my hand to hit anyone.

There a glimpse of insight came when I told a friend that I felt like an old Volkswagen Beetle hauling a caravan up the hill. She asked what was causing this stress?

It took many years before I could see what was happening.  My own internal drive to prove that I was worthy in a world run on money, glamour and celebrity. I was shaking the tree of life for all the nuts in the world to make up for the lack of self-love that one needs in order to dwell within community.

In the quiet hours of brokenness - which is the best word for that state where you realize  you will not get what you want - ever, it occurred to me  that "success" was not a thing that provided happiness or peace.  The consumer kool-aid I had drunk so thirstily was just an addiction. Part of the fantasy industrial complex.

There are those who climb to the top of their field through study, inquiry, good habits and humility. This uses a different kind of power. Immersion into the relationships and power of community through compassion, cooperation and self reflection. Rather than a top down control it is the commitment to serve. To observe beauty in nature and to feel gratitude for what one has.

So had I won my quest for personal glory, had I not broken down and wept, I would have carried on the ego fantasy and probably hurt many more people than I had. I might have burned the bridges to that two way learning, caused trauma to my beloved family without awareness.  This is called narcissism. And had I persisted to win at any cost my drive would have destroyed the life systems around me. This is called psychopathy.

This is what destroyed the first nations after European contact. Narcissistic, megalomaniac, psychopaths sailing into the sunset on their ships of discovery, out to conquer the world. And the way to do it is to refuse acknowledgement of the harm you are causing for the sake of your own self-agrandizement. To replace the voice of conscience with propaganda and new ideologies. To hasten the demise of aboriginal communities with germs, guns and alcohol.

This is  happening with neoliberal economics - the belief that free markets are really free while civil society and it's social institutions are being dismantled back to feudalist warring. When those who have so much power  can choose to listen to whomever they wish, they can purchase think tanks designed to back up their world view and sense of entitlement.

Power leads to destruction when the ego that has achieved some success keeps building on their status and position rather than the greater good for all. Even those in positions of power need to be surrounded by people they can trust to tell the truth, and to know that for as long as they live they belong in the family of humans.


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