On Power

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U.S. President

The thirst for power has been the undoing of men and nations for millennia. It is the seed from which tyranny blossoms, and it is something that all those desiring freedom and liberty have forever fought against. The check on corruption and power requires constant vigilance, and the only freedom that a people will never have is the freedom to rest in this regard.

All encroachments on liberty began with the lust for power, for you can never have it unless you take it from another. Individual freedom is always the first to be sacrificed in a leader’s quest for power. Leaders try to sell the illusion that only they can grant you the power over your own life, when the truth is that you already had it to begin with. It is only when you accept their lie that you have given up your power. “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak” (John Adams). This arrogance can be seen today in the attitudes and behaviors of our current political leaders.

Some say that those with money are corrupt and lead our government leaders astray. While this is indeed true, I would also say that the desire for power bears a far greater influence on the minds of men. Money is the mere consequence of man’s search for more power. Napoleon Bonaparte described power as his “mistress”, a conquest not easily given up due to the great exertion to get it. Likewise, those in power in our own government will not easily give up that which they have worked so hard to get. But, while Napoleon did battle with the sword, our own politicians will not be quite so obvious. They will use their mass financial resources to do their own form of battle against public opinion by repudiating, smearing, threatening and manipulating their opponents, as well as we the people who dare to question them. 

So how do we fight this power grab? Get educated. After all, knowledge is power. Let truth be your sword. Unless we want to admit that we really are the weak and uneducated public that they believe us to be, we must view any speech, any ad, any claim, with skepticism. Double check what they assert about themselves or their opponent. Like Napoleon’s mistress, there is usually a seedier side of the story that lies hidden from public view. Politicians rarely expose the bad things they have done – they hope that the mere crumbs they bring to the public table will be enough to keep the people satisfied. I don’t know about you, but I hunger for more. I hunger for a leader of greatness, which is not the same as a leader of power.

We can also fight the corruption of power in another way: elect men and women of character. Anyone who has to claim that they are a person of character is usually not. We can know a person of character by their actions. Do they keep their word? Do they sacrifice their own position or rights for the sake of another? Do they trust the people with their own liberty? Do they lift the people up, calling them to the greatness that lies within all of us, or do they instead try to bully the people with their own legislative morality? Ceding our power to those that continue to look down on us would be a foolish thing to do. It would only be a matter of time before we cede a lot more.

How much more liberty are you willing to let them take?

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), American social reformer, orator, writer, statesmen and former slave

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” John Adams (1797-1801) 2nd President of the United States

“Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. ” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 3rd President of the United States

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” James Madison (1751-1836), 4th President of the United States

“The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman and activist leader in the Civil Rights movement

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