Power Over Others

Here’s an excerpt from Jason Miller’s Magick Monday Newsletter:

Power Over Others

“Power is not controlling other people. Power is controlling yourself. Trying to control others is the first sign that you are out of control.” 
-Internet meme I saw this week.

“Power corrupts” often followed by “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 
– Lord Acton. Maybe.

“Those who seek power are unfit to wield it.” 
– misquote of plato that gets thrown around a lot. Younger me used to say it all the time.

My anthropology professor defined power as the ability to compell other people do things you want them to do. For some reason I found this shocking at the time. Apparently I am not alone. Why are so many well-intentioned people uncomfortable with the concept of wielding power?

Even more importantly, what happens when well-intentioned people shun this type of power and the positions that wield it?

Three times over the last two days, this topic has come up so I thought I should write about it. I mean, this is a blog about Sorcery after all, some level of power should be on the menu. I would like to take each of the three quotes above and look at them closely, both in terms of power in our lives, and political power. Yes, I will be breaking my general rule, and including some political musings in this post. If you disagree, keep it to yourself. Things will go back to the “No Politics” rule in the next post.

Let’s take another look at that first quote again. “Power is not controlling other people. Power is controlling yourself. Trying to control others is the first sign that you are out of control.” 

Sorry. No. This is wrong. This is confusing two different types of power, and saying that one is bad. I think self control is really important, but that has nothing to do with controlling others. There will always be those who try to control others. Unless you live in cloud cookoo land, thats a given. If people who are relatively well intentioned decide to abandon the idea of holding that kind of power, that will only result in ill-intentioned people picking it up.

On the personal level this might be a department staffed by six great people and one complete asshole that makes everyones life worse. If none of the six cool people want to lead the department because they don’t want to hold power over others, or don’t want to be part of the management or whatever, you can be sure the asshole will take up the reigns.

On a national level (here is the politics used purely for example) there were two populist movements in the early aughts: Occupy and the Tea Party. While I am not on board with either group, I would rather see views from Occupy hold more sway than the Tea Party. The problem is that people from the Occupy movement and other left leaning social movements reject becoming part of the establishment. They want to protest and take to the streets and make demands of the people in power. The Tea Party movement immediately started to run people for office and in ten years time took over almost the entire GOP. So who are Occupy protestors making demands from 20 years later? The Tea Party activists that did not shun power.

The Power over yourself and power over others are not mutually exclusive. We need both.

Next quote is “Power corrupts”, often followed by “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But is that really true? I don’t think it is. I think people in power are in positions to be corrrupt in ways that are noticable. I mean if someone doesn’t have any money or influence they could be a goddamn Sith Lord in their head and it wouldn’t matter because who would notice?

I think power and money are amplifiers. They turn the volume up on who we are and what we can do. Is corruption something we need to look out for? Absolutely, its a danger of power in the way that car accidents are a danger of driving. Every time you get into a vehicle you run the risk of a crash, but know that the benefits outweigh the dangers, especially if you know what to look for.

And even if it was true that power corrupts no matter what, does that mean we should let the people who are the easiest to corrupt wield power? That doesn’t make sense.

If Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely then it is our duty to not let anyone get a hold of absolute power. How do we do that? By diving power between different individuals and factions. If good people reject the notion of holding power, then we have no safeguard against it concentrating in the hands of bad people.

The last quote is “Those who seek power are unfit to wield it.” 

Then who is fit? Power is going to be wielded so who is it going to be wielded by? Ideally its by some incorruptible Bodhi-Saint who does it out of pure altruistic duty. I may believe in spirits and magic, but I don’t believe in that!

So what’s left? Well, you for starters. Embrace power, not just over yourself but positions that require you to excercise influence over others. If there is something you would like to change about society, something you want other people to do, you might just have to wield power and make them do it. I love that people don’t have to work theor jobs, and eat at restaurants in clouds of cigarette smoke anymore. You may not like it but I fucking LOVE it. It happened because people who wielded power made laws and forced people to do it. That simple.

If you don’t want to wield any more power than you absolutely have to, and let’s be real no one can wield power in all spheres, start looking at the lesser evils. I know people hate the idea of supporting a lesser evil, but I LOVE IT. The thing about lesser evils is that while they may not offer you as much as you hoped, and sometimes nothing at all, they at least prevent or slow down the things that you do NOT want. One guy is gonna shoot me in the leg and the other is gonna shoot me in the head? I will vote for the leg-guy please. If you don’t wield the power of that choice, don’t get be surprised when the bullet enters your skull.

In financial magic I made the point about money that you should either had to renounce it entirely or master it. Those who just ignore it, suffer, and further the suffering of others. I can say the same thing about power.

I am not saying you should study Macchiavelli, or idolize Frank Underwood. What I am saying is that if you don’t get involved in excercising power in your life and your world, the Macchiavellians and Frank Underwoods will have an easier time, and its your fault.

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Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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