The Allure of Power

This is not a political blog—it’s about writing, fictional books and other stuff.  But I guess politics could be in “other stuff.”  A definition of politics, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” 

Rather than sink to the depths of turning this blog into a political battle, maybe I should just talk about power.  The need for power is everywhere.  What does that mean.  Is power money, dominance over others, sex or something else.  Most of my writing centers on the abuses of power.  Murder would be the ultimate power grab—taking a life is the gravest abuse of power.  But also I have written about political power, law enforcement power, personal power over another and the more benign power of friendship. 

Why do humans seek this power?  The answer in my books is mostly due to money and sex.  That focus emphasizes power as strength or dominance.  Controlling someone else or a group is power.  The money and sex part may be just about measuring where you rank.  With that in mind, power is achieving the highest rank or status.  I’m King and I have the most power; therefore, I’m the best, the most important.  Okay there is some logic in that, and we sure can see the pattern that plays out in history and in our current politics; being a winner is achieving the highest level of status.  But what does that get you?  Money?  Sure.  Sex?  No doubt.  It still seems odd to me that while that may be enough to fight so hard for; it doesn’t really answer the question of why do humans seek power.

When I’m writing I spend a great deal of time trying to understand the motivations of my characters.  The main characters often fit the most obvious patterns of power seekers.  They often are flawed people trying to achieve a level of success to offset a history of failure.  They seek power as a way to achieve self-esteem.  I must be a good person I have all of this power.  Usually they are flawed because that is probably the wrong goal.  Power does not make you a good person.

The characters that I find the most interesting are often the secondary characters.  Seldom do they have power.  They live in the shadows but provide important support to the power seeker.  But why are they not power seekers.  I have struggled with that contradiction.  The human condition seems to be trying to achieve the highest status; but not everyone does that, why?

Politics by its definition is about power.  Power, or at least the acquisition of that power, seems to allow people of all stripes to decide that the means of obtaining and keeping power is justified by some sort of desired outcome.  Sure I can be dishonest, mean, deceptive but once I start to govern you will see the benefit of all of my shenanigans. 

Those secondary, support characters don’t seem to believe that the ends justify the means.  Most of my secondary characters have a more centered moral position.  They may (and often are) not the best people, but they seem to know who they are and have their own set of values.  It has often occurred to me as I’m writing that the strongest characters in my books are not the main ones but the minor, support characters. 

From this self-analysis I have concluded that the weakest people are the ones who need the most power.  Stronger individuals can forgo power because they have something else—self-confidence.  That is obviously a generalized statement; and, of course, it is about my fictional characters, so maybe it is just hooey.  Maybe?

Back to politics.  Would that mean the most aggressive, self-assured politicians seeking power are the weakest members of our society?  Does power attract the neediest?

When I was in college—oh so long ago; I was involved in a Philosophy class project where we decided what would be the best form of government.  Lots of silly discussions.  One of the smartest people in the room proposed that leadership of government should not be in the hands of one person; such as a President, but rather should be a tribunal.  Three leaders with one up for election every two years.  One of the reasons for this structure was to attract the best, most civic minded among us.  Whereas our current system of one President attracts the neediest.  Because that structure attracts the power seekers.

In history we can see that power seekers have been our political leaders, religious leaders, kings, Presidents, Generals, scolds, tyrants—all seeking something for themselves while promising everything for others.  In most cases the promise for others was never very believable; but we consistently fall for the con—because we want to believe.  Someday, I’m sure, we will realize that choosing the strongest, loudest, most confident, best looking individuals to lead results in picking the weakest, most incompetent leaders.  By contrast we should choose the most thoughtful, generous, intelligent, humble people as our leaders.  But would anyone with those qualities want to be a leader?

Thanks for being a reader!

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tedcliftonbooks

Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Ted is also an artist. Much of his work, digital, acrylic and watercolor, has been inspired by living in New Mexico for many years. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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