Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Does Power Corrupt?

There is a well known adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  What does that mean?  To me it means that few people can keep following their moral compass if they achieve too much power.  And, money is power.   Nelson  Mandela was an exception to the rule. Mandela had the possibility of endless power in South Africa. He could have put the whites responsible for his imprisonment in jail, but he didn't.  He could have exacted revenge on the proponents of apartheid, but he didn't.  Mandela worked to forgive those who had wronged him and the other blacks and unify the country.  He only ran for election once, and then stepped down so that democracy could work.

Compare Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He has become increasingly oppressive since wresting power from the Brits in the former Rhodesia. He claims land for his relatives. He rules with an iron hand, and his country suffers for it.

The difference is how the two men dealt with the power they had. There are few Mandelas in the world. But, power corrupts not only world leaders, but also bosses, politicians, the wealthy, and the rich capitalists.  I have thought about. The characteristics of those who abuse power. It seems to me, aside from being born a psychopath, there is mainly one characteristic and one characteristic alone that accounts for the corruptive tendency of power - INSECURITY.   If you do any reading about Richard Nixon, the man was wracked with insecurity and jealousy.  His 1960 statement upon losing the California governorship, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore," was sad not only because of the defensiveness of Nixon, but also because the statement was untrue. Nixon came back and what happened to the country wasn't pretty.

In discrimination cases, particularly those involving harassment, the  abuse of power principle applies. The less the boss' self-esteem, the more bullying he or she is. The same holds true for school bullies. What's the moral here?  Make sure people you promote are secure in their personhood?  That would be nice.  We don't need any more Charles Foster Kane's running this county.

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