Saturday, 26 November 2011

Power Posting

Power tools. George W Bush and Tony Blair shake hands at a White House press conference.  Photo by Paul Morse, for the US Government, via Wikimedia Commons - public domain.
They got the power! - George W Bush and Tony Blair shake hands at a White House press conference. Photo by Paul Morse, for the US Government, via Wikimedia Commons - public domain.



I'm in a triadic mood, and have three thoughts about power:

1) The will to do or make something which will require a lot of power, is a sign of virtue and quality - specifically, the virtue of magnificence. Aquinas's idea that this is ultimately an aspect of fortitude or courage is looking good to me at first blush.

2) The will to make oneself fit to wield a lot of power should one need to, is the sign of a more careful and scrupulous virtue - which feels, to me, like a sort of magnanimity. But it is magnanimity played in a careful and questioning mode, if so, and seems to me intimately linked to fortitude's three companion cardinal virtues - prudence, temperance, and justice.

3) The will to power for itself, as against these, seems to me a psychic form of self-gratification - pleasant and harmless enough in moderation and in private, but neither attractive nor civil to exhibit in public, and depressingly narcissistic and sterile if considered as a vocation.

So magnificence seeks power as a tool to do great things, by which I mean some particular great things which it has the heart and mind to imagine; magnanimity cultivates the skills to wield one's power greatly, by which I mean gracefully instead of grossly; and mere ambition is satisfied with just being a great big power tool. That sounds about right.

What does this say about people who are 'passionate' about attaining the highest levels of power, so that they can deliver 'strong leadership' towards - 'whatever works'?

2 comments:

  1. Coming out in 1876, the Colt 45 caliber was dubbed 'the peacemaker'. It held six metallic cartridges and could be quickly reloaded, making it a fearsome weapon in the hands of almost anyone holding it.

    It was also known by the sobriquet 'the great equalizer' because it could be held by anyone, good or bad, low-keeper or law-breaker.

    Power is power. It is neither good nor evil, but reflects and amplifies the intent of that person wielding it.

    Last thought: there is more power available today, to more people, than there has been for thousands, probably tens of thousands, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of years. How many times has the human race raised itself from the primitive to the powerful, only to lose it by using it?

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  2. Power is power. It is neither good nor evil, but reflects and amplifies the intent of that person wielding it.

    Precisely. And the pursuit of power for its own sake, as an intent unto itself, is thereby exposed as (i) an exercise in sheerest narcissism; and (ii) if at all successful, a positive feedback cycle. This isn't a combination calculated to end well.

    I suspect that the answer to your last question is: - by the standards of the day and locally, very often; and by the standards of today or globally, probably not very often if ever; and for the future, I dunno, but "many times" seems an entirely plausible projection.

    Also, I think that "power to" is just about as neutral as you say it is, whereas its popular but evil twin "power over" harbours a corruption of intent right from its beginning.

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