POWER AND INNOCENCE
"Alack! when once our power is unbounded, Nothing goes right."
"The parable of the talents is a parable about power-about financial power-and it illuminates the great truth that all power is given to us to be used, not to be wrapped in a napkin against risk."
-Robert McNamara, Washington, September 1968
"Of the infinite desires of men, the chief is the desire for power and glory."
Power: A New Social Analysis
"....the love of power is the demon of men.....for the demon waits and waits and will be satisfied"
"Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true."
"Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power."
"Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other."
The Psychology of the Unconscious
"All politics is a struggle for power."
C. Wright Mills
"Liberty, when men act in bodies, is Power."
"We are lived by powers we pretend to understand."
-W.H. Auden, "In Memory of Ernst Toller
"Power always has an untied shoelace; the very need to threaten suggests an obscure vulnerability."
-Walter Kerr, Tragedy and Comedy
"A certain quantum of power must always exist in the community, in some hands, and under some appellation."
Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790
"Seriousness, always has more to do with power than with content. The authority to designate what is to be taken seriously (and the authority to enforce reverential solemnity in certain contexts) is a way of creating and maintaining power."
"Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control affairs."
"The only genuine alternative to power is political day-dreaming."
The Final Imperative
"A great power is not mountains of weapons and subjects with no rights, A great power is self-reliant and talented people with initiative."
"Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads."
Charles Caleb Colton
"Power and violence are opposites. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance....The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, but....the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene."
"Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the habit of obedience, but by the exercise of power which they believe to be illegitimate, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive."
"Conventional books on power tell us a lot about the powerful.....To understand the workings of power as a relationship one must also consider the situation of the weak."
-Elizabeth Janeway Powers of the Weak
"The wise become as the unwise in the enchanted chambers of Power, whose lamps make every face the same color."
'Demmosthenes and Eubulides' Imaginary Conversations, 1824-9
""Give me a standing place," said Archimedes, "and I will move the world."-Goethe has changed the postulate into the precept: "Make good thy standing place, and move the world."
"Do not talk to me of Archimedes' lever. He was an absent-minded person with a mathematical imagination. Mathematics command my respect, but I have no use for engines. Give me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world."
"….Politics no, I cannot bear the hypocrisy, the continual pretense of noble sentiments for the people, the workers, freedom, justice, etc. They care nothing for these and do not dare admit that it is really the idea of power which intoxicates them. So why are you ashamed to admit it? Do you like power, do you want it? Then take it and stop talking about justice, the workers and freedom. Don’t deceive the people who believe in you. Take the power and keep it as long as it lasts and suffer, because power makes man ugly and destroys him ."
"What is politics, after all, but the compulsion to preside over property and make other people’s decisions for them? Liberty, the very opposite of ownership and control, cannot, then, result from Political action, either at the polls or the barricades, but rather evolves out of attitude. If it results from anything, it may be levity."
Skinny Legs and All
"So long as government is viewed as an agency through which virtue and happiness for the individual may be attained, so long as governments are viewed as causes rather than effects, so long as individuals believe that self-responsibility may be escaped through retreat to the collective ethic, power will be rampant in our society. As the state grows more and more powerful the individual citizen will tend to grow weaker and weaker."
-George C. Roche III
"…a group of researchers has found that power (and achievement orientation) correlates very highly with serum uric acid, the substance in the blood that is responsible for gout, and which is considered " a possible risk factor in coronary heart disease." Serum uric acid is high among powerful, successful men, and at its lowest among the unemployed, a depressing piece of information for the ambitious to consider."
Power and how to get it, How to use it
"You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Power ought to serve as a check to power."
"Power worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible."
'James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution', 1946
"One has to have lived in that isolation which is a National Assembly to realize that the very men who are totally ignorant of the real state of a country are always those who represent it....Fear of the people is the sickness of all who participate in Authority; for the men in power, the people are the enemy..."
"It is not power that corrupts, but fear."
Aung San Suu Kyi (1991 Nobel Peace Prize)
"If absolute power corrupts absolutely where does that leave God?"
"The distinction that really matters, is not between violence and non-violence, but between having and not having the appetite for power."
"The craving for power which characterizes the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation of the national sovereignty.
Albert Einstein (letter to Freud, July 30,1932)
"Power gradually extirpates for the mind every humane and gentle virtue."
A Vindication of Natural Society
"Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches."
-Shelley, Queen Mab III
"Intelligence is not all that important in the exercise of power and is often, in point of fact, useless. Just as a leader doesn’t need intelligence, a man in my job doesn’t need too much of it either."
"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."
"I am more and more convinced that man is a very dangerous creature and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping."
"The will to power, as the modern age from Hobbes to Nietzsche understood it, far from being a characteristic of the strong, is, like envy and greed, among the vices of the weak, and possibly even their most dangerous one. Power corrupts indeed when the weak band together in order to ruin the strong, but not before."
"Except by saints, the problem of power is finally insoluble."
"No one is fit to be trusted with power…..Any man who has lived at all knows the follies and wickedness he’s capable of. If he does not know it, he is not fit to govern others. And if he does not know it, he knows also that neither he nor any man ought to be allowed to decide a single human fate."
Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters own money."
Richard J. Needham
"The only man totally indifferent to power is the man totally indifferent to his fellow-man."
"Speaking more generally, one may say that some kind of power forms the normal and legitimate aim of every person whose natural desires are not atrophied."
"If one is tell the plain truth, man is without real power in anything, never taking a firm hold of anything. I do not mean merely of common things, but not even of those which concern himself; neither of health, nor of a good condition of the outward senses, nor of soundness in respect of the other parts of his body, nor of his voice, nor of his presence of mind; for as to wealth, or glory, or friends, or power, or all the other things which depend on fortune, who is there who does not know how thoroughly unstable they are? So that we must of necessity confess that the supreme power over everything belongs to one being alone, the true Lord of all existing things."
Philo of Alexandria
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of Tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Frederick Douglas 1857
"In a curious sense, the advent of total power has pushed the entire human race back to the time when men were at the mercy of bullies; that is, a time when government either did not exist or was incapable of dealing with lawlessness. Today, the dominant condition of mankind has reverted to anarchy. Whatever the present forms of law and order in the world may be today, they have only limited validity. For these forms exist only inside the nation. The overriding danger to life in our times comes from the interactions of nations in the world arena. In the absence of a higher tribunal, a nation interprets for itself the requirements of justice. It inevitably pursues its own self-interest n contact with other nations. And a nation knows no law except self-determination. But the self-determination of one nation is the anarchy of all. And the ultimate consequences of world anarchy for the individual are even more menacing than they would be inside the nation itself. The end product of world anarchy could mean the end of the age of the human species."
The Pathology of Power
"the urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."
"At root, the involvement with power is, in both the Islamic and the Marxist visions, the outcome of the conviction that human suffering, to the extent that it is not inevitable, remains essentially an exclusively political phenomenon. Islam, like Marxism, recognizes the possibility of a prosperous and just social order here on earth. Christianity, to take another vision, sees-or rather should in principle see-the radical sinfulness of human nature as imposing an operative embargo on the possibility of social justice on this side of the grave. Man's fallen state entails a permanent social disability that no political order could remove. Christianity, like Buddhism, views much of human suffering as an apolitical feature of our plight, transcending as it does purely political resolution. Islam and Marxism, by contrast, are characterized by an integral concern with the conscientious use of power in the service of social change that, in turn, serves to eliminate avoidable varieties of our distress and misery."
The Final Imperative
"The realities of power in the real world all point an accusing finger at the ubiquitous West-at once secular in professed ambition yet proudly religious in the hour of moral justification and accountability. Questions of political humility are here unavoidable. It is wrong to see traditional Islam as a Fascist or totalitarian ideology with no resources for self-criticism or humility. Wrong indeed-unless one were, as in the case of many Western critics, defending a thesis at all costs."
The final Imperative
"Some paradox of our natures lead us, once we have made our fellowman the object of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, (and) ultimately of our coercion."
".....Some social scientists now suggest that humans practice dominance most effectively not by bullying people but by doing favors, by philanthropy, by sharing attention, by building alliances, and by deploying the gentle weaponry of compromise and persuasion. Evolutionary psychologists, who are not otherwise known for their sunny view of human nature, suggest that we sometimes gain power for being, for want of a better word, nice"
The Natural History of the Rich
"The greatest poison ever known is Caesar's laurel crown."
"It is a strange desire, to seek power, and to lose liberty; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self."
Francis Bacon (1571-1626)
"contact with men who wield power and authority still leaves an intangible sense of repulsion. It’s very like being in close proximity to faecal matter, the faecal embodiment of something unmentionable, and you wonder what it is made of and when it acquired its historically sacred character."
"There are only two powers in the world, the sword and the pen; and in the end the former is always conquered by the latter."
"Power always acts destructively, for its possessors are ever striving to lace all phenomena of social life into a corset of their laws to give them a definite shape. Its mental expression is dead dogma; its physical manifestation of life, brute force. This lack of intelligence in its endeavors leaves its imprint likewise on the persons of its representatives, gradually making them inferior and brutal, even though they were originally excellently endowed. Nothing dulls the mind and the soul of man as does the eternal monotony of routine, and power is essentially routine."
Nationalism and Culture
"…All authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised…..When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoralizing. People, in that case, are less conscious of the horrible pressure that is being put on them, and so go through their lives in a sort of course comfort, like petted animals, without ever realizing that they are probably thinking other people’s thoughts, living by other people’s standards, wearing practically what one may call other peoples secondhand clothes, and never being themselves for a single moment. "He who would be free," says a fine thinker, " must not conform." And authority, by bribing people to conform, produces a very gross kind of overfed barbarism amongst us."
The Soul of Man under Socialism
"necessity is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves."
William Pitt, Jr.
"Whenever one man exerts power over his fellow men, he is committing an act of treason. If he utilizes all the resources of modern technology in order to maintain himself in power, he is all the more guilty and all the more deserving of punishment, because he has stolen from the people what is rightly theirs."
"No man, once he has come to power, remains completely sane. Inevitably he surrenders to self-indulgent fantasies, rejoices in his own majestic utterances, and loses the most precious of his possessions, his humanity."
"…..the disease, whether in a capitalist or so-called socialist economy, is a lust for power. Since it is obvious that power-lovers seldom if ever operate in the best interests of the vast bulk of humans, they have to take care that they keep the vast bulk of humans under control. A variety of ruses are employed for this purpose. Although their objective is power and control over humans-keeping them in their proper place-the methods are disguised not merely as "the way things ARE", but also as the way things have to be, as a sort of natural law.
John W. Gofman
"The imbecility of men is always inviting the impudence of power."
"Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief."
"Power is poison. Its effect on Presidents had been always tragic, chiefly as an almost insane excitement at first, and a worse reaction afterwards; but also because no mind is so well balanced as to bear the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it; and finding it disputed with him by hungry packs of wolves and hounds whose lives depend on snatching the carrion. . ."
"I shouldn't be surprised in this world if it (innocence) were the force that could at last prevail."
"One pays heavily for coming to power: Power 'makes stupid' ."
"For after all there is nothing more admirable than Power-not the organized power of established society, which is generally detestable, but the native power of the individual, the daemonic energy of life."
"Now, in this dreadful masquerade of himself as a ribald King of the Jews, the fantasy of power itself is exposed forever. There were, of course, tyrants who would rise up after Jesus’ death in his name; and before very long a Pontiff would be crowned in Rome with a triple crown as Jesus’ representative on earth. Yet there was always to be, thanks to Jesus, a reservation as to whether the potentate in question might not, like Pilate's King of the Jews, be a figure of farce rather than of awe. Behind the songs of praise, however loud, and the adulatory speeches, however fulsome, the sound of mocking laughter would always be heard. However absolute the authority-divine right of kings, infallible Popes, Holy Roman and other emperors-Jesus’ presence at some point would make itself felt, raising the question: Is that jeweled crown plaited thorns? That red robe drag? That gleaming scepter a mere reed; Those fawning courtiers jeering soldiers? The unanointed monarchs of our time, the Stalin’s and the Hitlers and the Mao Tse Tungs, have proved infinitely more tyrannous than ever the anointed ones were. If, as often seems to be the case, we have driven Jesus away, or at any rate back to the catacombs, then we are totally at the mercy of our rulers, whoever they may be and whatever the ideology on behalf of which they purport to govern. The only antidote to the poison from Caesar's laurel crown comes from Jesus’ crown of thorns. He alone can deliver us from the monstrosities and buffooneries of power, as has been discovered be the most perceptive spirits of our time, such as Solzhenitsyn. faced with power at its most unbridled and most brutal, they turn for help and comfort, not to Universal Declarations of Human Rights and other pronouncements , solemn undertakings , Covenants and Charters in a similar vein, but to the man wearing a crown of thorns, decked out in a red robe of absurdity and with a court of jeering soldiers. There alone the sting of power is drawn and its pretensions are exposed, and the princes of this world have no recourse but, like Judas, to flee into the night. "
"... he (Christ) rejects power. It has no part in the good things of life. It has nothing to do with happiness. The blessed-the Greek word means happy-are the humble, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. Here at the very outset appears the immeasurable distance between his view of the purpose and the fulfillment of life and that of all others."
"When a man quits power, or power quits him, then is he to the universe neither honorable nor respectable.
Alfred the Great
"Power is never a good thing, save its possessor be good, for, when power is beneficent, this is due to the man who wields it. You need not take thought for power nor endeavor after it, for if you are only wise and good, it will follow you, even though you seek it not. "
Alfred the Great
"The wrong sort of people are always in power because they would not be in power if they were not the wrong sort of people. "
"Seduction with power overwhelms a man, for it is the offspring of encompassing ruin. . . . " -
"Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company , where words are not empty and deeds not brutal , where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy, but to establish relations and create new realities."
"Tyranny is a habit; it grows upon us and, in the long run, turns into a disease. I say that the most decent man in the world can, through habit, become as brutish and coarse as a wild beast. Blood and power intoxicate, callousness and vice develop; the most abnormal things become first acceptable, then sweet to the mind and heart. The human being , the member of society, is drowned forever in the tyrant, and it is practically impossible for him to regain human dignity, repentance, and regeneration. Once such instance-the realization that such arbitrary power can be exercised-can infect all society; such power is seductive. A society which can watch this happen with equanimity must itself be basically infected. "
The House of the' Dead
"In all societies-primitive and advanced, totalitarian and democratic, capitalist and socialist-only a few men exercise great power. This is true whether such power is exercised in the name of the "people" or not. "
Thomas R. Dye
Who’s Running America
"This belief that all would go right if we could only get the strings into our own hands is a fallacy, almost with- out exception. But nobody can say it is not public-spirited. The sin and sorrow of despotism is not that it does not love men, but that it loves them too much, and trusts them too little."
' G.K. Chesterton
"If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he could, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus (i.e., the reigns of the emperors of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius). The vast extent of the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty....the labors of these monarchs were overpaid by the immense reward that inseparably waited on their success; by the honest pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the general happiness of which they were the authors."
"We cannot avoid
Cannot escape the compulsion To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction
and mighty in contradiction,
Love powerfully. "
Power & Love
"The way to innocence, to the uncreated and to God leads on, not back to the wolf or to the child, but even further into sin, even deeper into human life. "
"As of now, in the United States and in Western Europe, the rich man has little power merely because he is rich. . . (He) amounts to little unless he connects himself with effective institutions. He must master past institutions or must create new ones. . . .However large his bank account, he can do nothing with it but consume. He can build or buy palaces, amuse himself in Monte Carlo , Miami , or Las Vegas . He can amuse himself by collecting books or purchasing bonds. He can give libraries or laboratories to universities and have his name put on them. He can receive the pleasant but powerless recognition of decorations, honorary degrees, and even titles of nobility. None of these things entitle him to make decisions affecting other men or to give orders (outside his own household) with any likelihood they will be fulfilled. Even when he seeks to give his son a career in business, he must ask the assistance of acquaintances and friends who will give the boy a fair chance-and can give him little more. Beyond that, he can leave his son nothing but the ability to live without work and to waste as long as his wealth holds out. All of this does not add up to power, "
Adolf A. Berle
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.
"A satisfied, self-sufficient state which has all the economic necessities and is, purely by reason of its size and "potential" an opponent to be feared, can better camouflage its lust of power by peaceable gestures than another which would first like to have what the others have got. The wealthy nation, or the nation which has acquired wealth, whose ambitions of power are more or less satisfied, can afford a display of peaceable ness, since it has as great an interest in preserving the status quo as the poor one in changing it, while the poor state, being out for change, must take upon itself the odium of disturbing the peace. Judged from the standpoint of justice, the conservative egoism which aims at peace is no better than the egoism which aims at war. Those who claim their national monopolies as their self-evident right must be prepared for others simply not to recognize that monopoly and therefore to become aggressive."
Justice and the Social Order
"The starry-eyed Syndrome is....very hard to correct. The ancient assertion: 'If you believe what I tell you, you will be saved. If you don't you will be damned,' has been used for centuries....It is an integral part of the world's oldest confidence trick. It is still played today and is still profitable....
"The will to dominate....is the exact opposite of the Starry-eyed Syndrome. This is the basis for the False-Messiah Syndrome, and in those in whom it occurs are responsible for vast amounts of human misery. This error occurs in people who naturally possess some special power. They are less scattered, less divided, less lacking in unity and will than the average man. They are able to apply themselves to a single aim and pursue that aim with an emotional intensity....
"(The false messiah).....instead of becoming liberated of the self, is more tightly bound to it. He uses the power he has attained by inner discipline to further the aims of the self, these being often identified with some organization which is, in fact, the self amplified....
The condition once it has developed, is hard to correct."
Robert S. DeRopp
The Master Game
"There are people who are convinced of the wickedness both of armies and of police forces, but who are nevertheless much more intolerant and inquisitorial in outlook than the normal person who believes that it is necessary to use violence in certain circumstances. They will not say to somebody else, 'Do this, that and the other or you will go to prison', but they will, if they can, get inside his brain and dictate his thoughts for him in the minutest particulars. Creeds like pacifism and anarchism, which seem on the surface to imply a complete renunciation of power, rather encourage this habit of mind. For if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics-a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to drawn any material advantage-surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise."
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
"And so we have arrived on the threshold of the crux of the matter-power. We are at the end of the Piscean Age for which the Crucifixion is still the most potent symbol. Christ started it as the Master who attained his full potential reach into matter and was put on a cross for it. He was followed by two thousand years of searchers who are now in incarnations again after two thousand years of experience being garroted, burned at the stake, hands and genitals cut off, and lately radiated with atomic weaponry. Does anybody think we’ve had enough? Isn’t it about time to enter the places of pain to find our power? There is no question about it anymore. It is a matter of survival."
Barbara Hand Clow
The Eye of the Centaur
Book: "The Power Elite" by C. Wright Mills
Book: "Kinds of Power" by James Hillman
Book: "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor" by Paul Farmer
Book: "L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman" by Bent Corydon
Book: "Sex,Time & Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution" by Leonard Shalain
Book: "FEELING STRONG: The Achievement of Authentic Power" by Ethel S. Person
Book: "The Ways of Power: Pattern and Meaning in World Politics" by George Liska
Book: "Power & Greed: A Short History of the World" by Phillippe Gigantes
Book: "The Nemesis Of Power: A History of International Relations Theories" by Harald Kleinschmidt
Back to Chrestomathy Next Page