“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A statement attributed to Lord Acton. This corruption refers not just to unlawful enrichment, but also the corruption of morals and one’s behaviour.
But before we rush to condemn those who hold power and whose behaviour is characterised by arrogance, haughtiness, disrespect to others and bearing false witness, let us ask ourselves to what extent we contribute to these character traits in those who hold or possess power?
How many of us show too much respect to those with power? How much of us refuse to acknowledge their wrongs and incompetence? How many of us refuse to comment on the fact that many of them do not have the moral groundings to exercise authority over others? How many of them are square pegs in round holes?
Power indeed tends to corrupt. Power brings with it influence, prestige and perquisites. Many of us want such status and therefore we tend to look up to those in power when in fact, we should be holding them, because of their position, to higher and more regular forms of public scrutiny.
How many of us do not contribute to those in positions of authority feeling that they are demi-gods? How many of us do not make them feel that they are superior beings and that they have earned the entitlements of their office when we know that many of them are pretenders who Lady Luck and opportunism has smiled upon?
How many of us for selfish reasons feel privileged being around those with power because it makes us look good in front of our friends? How many of us would behave differently if the shoe were on the other foot and we ourselves had the power? How many of us would not want to be in their position so that we too can trample on the rights of others?
Power can be intoxicating. Do you know what it does to someone’s psyche to have a position of power, which entitles you to a fancy house, a chauffeur, an expensive vehicle and all the other lawful pre-requisites, which come with a powerful office?
How many of us do not enjoy being around persons of authority? There are persons in Guyana who like to be in the company of persons with power, because it makes them feel themselves to be part of a circle of influence. It is ego-boosting to be around those who have influence and authority.
There is no doubt that it also makes things easier. Persons with power can pull strings and assist. They can grant favours, and this is why they often have such selfish followers.
Persons with power can issue an order for someone to jump and when that person asks how high, it can corrupt the mind, because suddenly life is different. Persons who never had power and suddenly experience what it can do, experience a ‘high’ that makes them believe that they are beyond the ordinary. With one phone call, they can cause someone’s freedom to be snatched. They can destroy people’s lives with one decision.
When you have power, you enjoy privileges, which you never contemplated. You are treated special, invited to important functions where you wine and dine. All of this can have an effect on your thinking and, consequently on your behaviour. Persons with power in our society virtually do not have to spend any money. Whatever they want, they can click their fingers and someone will willingly provide in the hope of obtaining a favour later on.
It is not as if those with power are not humble. It is just that they have no need any longer to be humbled. Every statement they make, however ignorant, is treated as a containing prophetic wisdom, every stale joke is laughed at; everything you do is justified. Lackeys and boot-lickers are always around to do their bidding.
When we therefore seek persons in authority behaving arrogantly, we should ask ourselves to what extent we encourage such behaviour. You will be surprised by the answer. In most cases, we are the responsible for the very behaviour, which we are quick to condemn.
Stop stooping to those in power! Stop buying them drinks and showering them with gifts! Stop inviting them to parties! Stop laughing at their dry jokes! Stop praising their poor taste in clothing! Stop justifying their abhorrent behaviour and indecent public conduct! Stop excusing their poor choice of company! In other words, stop putting them on a pedestal and you see how quickly they will become humble.
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