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#58 - Power and Influencing Choice

Updated: Jul 8

By SG

Power is defined as the ability to act or influence another or a course of events. This is typically sought out of fear or to secure oneself or one’s loved ones against a perceived threat. There is always a power dynamic between individuals or groups, just because of their different backgrounds. It may change based on environment or situation.


Power and authority stem from many different sources. Sometimes it is given freely by others based on respect for expertise or character. Sometimes it is taken by force or coercion. It can be easier to seize power by force or coercion, but it requires more repeat injections to maintain this authority as it does originally come with the consent of those who are in custody. The other form is more freely given, even if it may require some convincing to gain that consent.


Raft of Medusa, Geri Cault

               My father told me that if power is enforced on another then the chains eventually begin to chafe, which makes that power less stable. The more gradual growth of power from respect seems more stable, if that respect continues to seem deserved. Yet our lives on this planet are brief, and some wish to fulfill wants or needs by any means necessary. The ends justify the means, and continued use of power to maintain it can seem a small price to pay.


               Power can be used to blind another to their own best interests and to place those of another before themselves. This is a willing choice by those who enter service of a country or ideology. This is why death, a complete end of existence and potential improvement of one’s own state is worthwhile for that more powerful other. Such a choice can also be a sacrifice made in a more small-scale individual relationships which could become abusive in some manner.


               Power is not always used for selfish purposes though. Lt. General Russel L. Honore defines leadership in his book Leadership in the New Normal as, “the art and science of influencing others to willingly follow.” (pg. 19) Lt. General Honore emphasizes willingly, and focuses on the ideology of freedom as the means by which he would do so. He seems more focused on the gradual growth of power, but believes that it is sped along by having a clear ideology for others to follow, “If you’re the leader, you have to be sure everyone behind you sees the vision. They have to see where you want to go. Otherwise, you’re going to be chasing it by yourself.” (pg. 32)


Pilgrims, Petr Maixner

               Aristotle believed that centralized power in a monarchy or tyranny would always devolve into corruption and self-serving behavior, before being overthrown and turned to an oligarchy or democracy, which have their own flaws leading to decline or chaos. The Analects of Confucius also have many sections about how to properly maintain respect as a gentleman or knight. One is in Book 8, section 4, “There are three things that a gentleman, in following the Way, places above all he rest: from every attitude, every gesture that he employs he must remove all trace of violence or arrogance; every look that he composes in his face must betoken good faith; from every word that he utters, from every intonation, he must remove all trace of coarseness or impropriety.” A polite, respectful, calm, and well-intentioned individual would inspire that in others, and earn the respect that gains a more reliable power. The next step would be to use it honorably to support all the people.


               Soren Kierkegaard is very clear that having power or authority means there cannot be personal emotional attachments that sway personal choices or else that respect is in danger of being lost. “When a son forgets his duty, when the State entrusts the father with the sword of judgement, when the laws demand punishment at the father’s hand, then it is with heroism that the father must forget that the guilty one is his son. Nobly will he hide his pain, but in the nation there will be not one, not even the son, who fails to admire the father, and every time the laws of Rome are interpreted it will be recalled that many interpreted them more learnedly but not more gloriously than Brutus.” (Fear and Trembling, pg. 67) It is from faith in God having the appropriate path laid out in front of us that we can behave as a “knight of faith” and have the willingness to behave as Abraham did trusting in the justice of God to decide rightly and guide the hand of believers. It is a willingness to sacrifice personal desires for the good of others that allows for power to be accepted and not challenged. This danger of an abuse of power also can be found in more intimate relationships as well. A marriage is more important than either spouse. The decision is to link lives together for the mutual good of the children and each other. This may require a sacrifice or two.


José García y Ramos (Sevilla, Provincia de Sevilla, Kingdom of Spain 1852-1912 ibidem) Galanteo en Sevilla - Óleo sobre lienzo

               In these more personal relationships power dynamics can influence the choices taken. If someone feels a sense of danger if a request is not obeyed, then does that person really have the liberty to say no? At the very least, the scales are weighted to encourage acquiesce. That has a clearer relationship to the violence and coercion of less stable power, and personally I would not remain in a relationship where that took place. Respect and trust also have a power component, and if that respect or trust is abused or manipulated, then perhaps an individual could be convinced to make decisions that are not in their best interest but more for the benefit of the person in that position of power.


    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; - Psalms 27:1


               There is always a balance between liberty and tyranny. Anarchy appears to reign on one hand, with mob rule enforced (following the root meaning of that word) upon the community they find themselves in. And on the other, such suffocating oppression that famine and prison for thought-crime exists. And all societies require basic rules to function with anything approximating justice. Theoretically the whole idea of rulership and loyalty is that it is supposed to inspire a sense of responsibility toward those who are governed. This was the case with kings and queens, with the Emperors of times past, and certainly with representatives today. These authorities in exchange with that loyalty provide protection and various services as deemed appropriate. The influence that power provides can provide guiderails for another. This pen shifts the experience from true freedom of choice toward a more tyrannical control.

-SG

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This blog has been a work of love developed over the past ten years and finally brought to life through the dedicated tech help by Soren, who was originally my physical therapist and now is a time-limited partner who managers two other martial arts training centers. Being an old gay guy I struggle to function well in the blog-a-sphere so this presentation will be a bit rough at first. Feel free to lend your ideas.

 

Since my teen years I have believed that through appropriate touch we can heal ourselves. But the journey to better understand my own dynamics and gain enough awareness to be able to write about our complex humanness only coalesced after I had an opportunity to be in prison. There I had time to do deep self-examinations about why I was who I am and how I could translate that into helping others make discoveries for themselves. I do not claim to be a professional therapist or counselor.

 

But I do believe there are others in this world who might benefit from these ideas presented in this blog platform. Having grown to the point of releasing nearly all of my fears and can now truly say that I love every moment and feel in partnership with my soul, I feel that others may benefit from my travels. Being non-judgmental I welcome your insights, whatever they may be, and I will strive to help everyone find greater peace in their lives. HOSHOWLOVE.com and Hoshow, LLC.

 

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