Deconstructing Power (Part 4)
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 28 May 2018
28 May 2018 – The exploration of “power” made so far has been general. It is applicable to any human society, irrespective of time and place. We shall focus now on the specifics of the exciting but alarming situation prevalent today.
Salient features of the present age are: technology, industry, colonization, industrial scale slavery and warfare, abundant use of inexpensive fossil fuels, and – especially in recent decades – higher levels of education and awareness. We consider globalization to be a major consequence of these factors.
Note that “ideologies” – prominent in academic and political discourse – are NOT listed as a salient feature of the age. The reasons are: (a) a “tailor-made” ideology can always be commissioned as a vehicle to gain power and wealth, and (b) the actual practice of any ideology is shaped hugely by hidden motives.
Global politics today is described using words such as “superpower”, “emerging superpower”, “unipolar”, “multipolar” … and so on. These words describe the inevitable tensions and friction between existing and emerging “empires” – that is, conglomerates of power. Use of the word “emperor” is shunned today – but of course power works on human societies in the same way, regardless of which words one may use to describe its chief actors and its effects.
The causes and moving forces of “raw power” are rooted deep in the human psyche – but its outward manifestations are specific to time and place. Thus a present-day global “power-monger” affects dress, language and manners which are totally different from, say, those of the Roman or the Mughal times. But the underlying human psychodynamic is exactly the same.
A “standardized” suite of dress, manners and verbiage serves as a “must have” accessory to the games of deception, obfuscation, coercion and exploitation which are played out at the expense of the masses – that is, ordinary human beings whose main aim is to live in peace.
There is no cultural distinctiveness among the global “ruling cliques”. In the “realpolitik” of greed and power, cultural distinctions have no role – indeed they run the risk of being misunderstood. To “network smoothly”, a global “power-monger” must adopt the style and manners of the capi du tutti capi.
Uniformity of dress, manners and verbiage has practical utility. It serves as a signal between parties to drop all other considerations and “come directly to the point” – to the underlying thirst for power and wealth. In fact, in the “realpolitik” of greed and power, there are no “special” or “chosen” ones. Any claim to being “special” or “chosen” is either a cunning “power gambit” – or a delusion.
In fact this “being special” posture leads to huge practical difficulties.
A “special person” usually misjudges other human beings, since they are judged to be in a different category. Miscalculation follows, as does eventual failure.
However, it is not an option for “special ones” to admit any mistakes – since others may then see through their game. To err may be human – but “special ones” do not err! What ensues then is non-stop duplicity, doubling down, lies – and steady erosion in the vitality and creativity of the “special ones”.
For “power-mongers”, only one “god” is left standing today – “the god of power”, attended demurely by the eternal concubine “wealth”. All other deities of yore have become either collector’s items or objects of empty ritual.
The “power clique” usually dubs itself the “aristocracy”. Every modern state carries its enormous and unwholesome burden, which is essentially parasitic. An elaborate “cover” is deployed to hide the ugly reality of greed and exploitation, but the “disease of power and wealth” is the same everywhere.
This disease is spread by contagion – a mindless compulsion of “keeping up with the Babbleburgs”, as in “Daah…ling! If she can have a second Rolls, why can’t I?”
We have heard of the cruel moneylender in a typical Indian village, who exploits to the hilt a poor farmer’s desperation and illiteracy. This problem is explained away by the well-meaning as a mere symptom of “lack of development”.
But are “developed societies” faring any better today?
In today’s “developed societies”, exalted moneylenders – with the status of “demigods”, no less! – not only lend but also create money out of thin air! They lend out the created money on interest – and also take other huge, unprotected bets with that money. If their bets go wrong, taxpayers bail them out!
Entire countries fall into the debt traps of the global “money-mongers”. In this way, cruel debt-slavery has been raised to the level of geopolitics. It is clear that “development” does not necessarily solve the problem typified by the rural Indian moneylender. Is it any wonder then that children of Indian “ruling classes” flock to global investment banks for careers in glorified usury and money-printing?
We can only hope that national unity and sovereignty everywhere will withstand the relentless attacks mounted by agents of power and wealth – attacks which consist of both financial pressures and the allure of fake “freedoms”.
The true purpose of human life is happiness and peace. But when power and wealth are seen as ends in themselves, this true purpose of human life is lost. A mindless drive to power and wealth is rooted in deep-seated insecurity and inadequacy – the opposite of happiness and peace.
Thus a mindless drive to power and wealth aims at the opposite of what 99% of humanity needs and seeks.
Therefore a strategy aimed solely at achieving power and wealth, using any means available, is eventually a losing strategy. The root causes – deep-seated insecurity and inadequacy – do not go away with the attainment of power and wealth; in fact they multiply, and a kind of pathological addiction ensues. Strife and decline are inevitable; happiness and peace are absent.
It is a seriously defective mind which cannot imagine or countenance peaceful, happy human life – that is, “fulfilled” human life. Such seriously defective minds are the ones chasing forever more power and wealth. For such misguided ones, “The world is not enough!” And therefore they will never be happy.
A mind burning with envy, anger and thwarted ambition has the attitude: “If I cannot be happy, I will see to it that you cannot be happy either! Anyone else’s happiness must only be at my mercy – because I am the boss”. This is no more than a doomed attempt to “grab” happiness – a sickness in an adult person.
We see restlessness which only guilt can produce, and we see “doubling down” after every fiasco. This zeitgeist has a centuries-long record of failure to show for it – but the failure is disguised by technology, exploitation of “virgin” territories, academic hype, media hype and fake money. Such a model of “civilized life” or “progress” works only because “WE SAY SO – AND YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!”
Sadly, “power-mongers” drunk on their own deluded being are oblivious even to the immense damage caused to the environment and the ecosystems.
Today, can the powerful and wealthy “leaders of the international community” give us a life of happiness and peace? NO. They cannot. Why is that so? Simple – because they do not even understand what these words mean!
Can we make these “crazed” people aware of their own pathetic restlessness, barely hidden by their tragic but laughable attempts to play “power games”? Can self-knowledge alleviate the problem of their delusions? We can certainly hope so – even if that sounds like desperate “hope against hope”.
Let us at least state clearly and politely: “We are not impressed”.
All this is extremely tragic. Gautam Buddha might not have imagined dukkha of such magnitude – not that he tried to quantify dukkha, to be fair.
What is the course of action left for an individual seeking happiness and peace?
Both imperial hubris and strong resistance to hubris are, as they say, baked into the Homo Sapiens DNA. History has proved this fact many times over; the present age is no different. Miscalculation and conflict are inevitable. Truth prevails. But, in the near future, we may witness a cascade of events – debt defaults, economic and energy crises, wars – which cause widespread disruption and misery.
Is it possible to chart a “sane course of action”?
Finding such a course requires a difficult exercise in “sanity” – for which the present author has accepted Gautam Buddha as the best exponent.
The good news is that recent decades have brought rising levels of awareness among all the people of the world. Over the internet, the pathology of power is played out in full view of the world. No other era provided such a “ringside view of power games” – from which the right lessons can be drawn.
With respect to the mindless “power-mongers”, a good start may be this: Do not fear. Do not hate. Do not fight them using their tools. See through. Be patient.
Global turmoil caused by irrational passions run amuck – a toxic mix of power, wealth and egos – is not unlike a powerful tsunami. One cannot reason with a tsunami, but one must make every effort to stay safe and stay sane.
Therefore: Do not let the “power mad” rob you of your happiness, wisdom and equanimity – your priceless assets.
The global “consumer culture” is in reality a “consuming culture” – not a “nourishing culture”. It is no more than a seductive method of exploitation, leaving no one fulfilled and at peace. Only a fool would dub such life to be “advanced” – or even merely “civilized”.
In view of the corrosive role of modern finance: Minimize debt.
Live a resilient and sustainable life. Stay healthy. Be skilled. Work hard.
Build and rely on direct and trustworthy human relationships. Fruitful collective action is possible only on the basis of trustworthy human relationships.
Avoid addictions. Any addiction is a form of enslavement.
Laugh freely. Pursue at least one goal which has a degree of altruism.
No “power-monger” can block the development of an individual mind. But beware the cunning games of the “power-mongers”. They are always on the lookout for “useful idiots”!
When “power-mongers” are isolated from their mentors, lackeys and props, they are seen to be helpless, pitiable and even laughable. By no means can they be considered happy, fulfilled human beings.
“Power games” are no more than a tragicomic spectacle put up by a few for the enlightenment of the many. Understand the “delusion of power”. An enormous amount of useful learning is possible thereby. In this way, “power-mongers” serve our noble purpose in life – and not the other way around.
Educate the young and bring them up right.
The generosity of our dear Mother Earth supports simple, happy life. The greedy “power-mongers” have chosen to cut themselves off from this generosity. But we do not have to accept being at the mercy of “power-mongers”.
However: Do not get mad. Do not try to get even. Be creative.
Regain awareness of the immense generosity of Mother Earth, the one true and reliable source of happiness and peace of mind.
Prophecies in certain ancient “holy” books – whatever “holy” means! – are sometimes used to justify the “power games” of today. BUT THAT IS A SCAM! What is the use today of a millennia old prophesy? Who could predict the future that far off? Why should we place faith in self-serving prophecies?
What we need is the wisdom which will work for us today.
Global turmoil may bring violence and incredible – should we say “biblical”? – amounts of misery. A desperate and misguided search for “the promised land” has endangered the beautiful and bountiful planet granted to us – generous, life-sustaining Mother Earth, unique in the infinitely vast and beautiful universe.
Today’s “power-mongers” apparently do not see the option of a grand and noble human enterprise – elimination of hunger, say – towards which all human beings around the world can cooperate. That would be way beyond their capability!
Mother Earth is our one and only “promised land”. Any hoary book which claims otherwise is wrong. Sadly, life is now at immense risk from our own folly. Are we worthy of the wonderful gift granted to us? If not, the gift may be taken away; that is, we may be removed from “the promised land”.
Let us hope that other beautiful life forms will thrive in our absence.
We close with a couple of jokes:
Question: What happened to Cinderella three years after her marriage?
Answer: She could not cope with the palace intrigue and became a nun.
Question: What will be the last human’s last words on this planet?
Answer: Oh no! This was not prophesied in my holy book!
Dr. Naresh Jotwani is a semi-retired academic living in India and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. Apart from part-time engagements in engineering education and consulting, he engages in an in-depth, personal exploration of how Gautam Buddha’s profound discoveries and teachings can be applied to the acute problems of modern life.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 May 2018.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Deconstructing Power (Part 4), is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.