The Competition for Power

The Competition for Power

How do we gain power? What is power? Is there a difference between personal power and power over others? Why do we need any kind of power?

All interesting questions. As a lead in, let’s start, on a slight tangent, by talking about what I like to call the so-answer-response. The so-answer-response can be given in reply to any question. The answer always starts with the word ‘so’ and goes like this:

Q, What are you doing?

A, So . . .  today we’re discussing power  

As I see it, this rather modern and obviously highly contagious precursor to answering a question, is in fact, all about power.

“It would seem, modern day language, has developed to the point, even answering a direct question, is seen as some kind of power struggle”

It’s like this. If I’m asked a question, and I then choose to answer it with a direct response, directly related to the question, I’m seen to be giving away my power. Linguistics has seen a way around this problem, through adding the ‘so’ precursor, to the answer. Consider the difference:

Q, What are you doing?

A, I’m discussing power.

Can you sense the difference here? Slight isn’t it?

The point being, we’re all in some kind of power struggle. Be this something that’s obvious, or something that’s not quite so, the power struggle goes on. If we were able to observe children at play, we would see the early signs, of the kind of power struggles humans go on to play, everyday of their lives. We might now ask: Why? Why do we need these power struggles?

Now, rather than answering that question directly, I’ll proceed by asking a few more. Why are people being poisoned on our streets? Why are nearly two million people – in the UK alone – experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse every year. Why, somewhere in the world right now, are there innocent women and children being bombed? What is this kind of power struggle? What is the real problem here?

“Allow me to give you a further, if gentler example, of a power struggle”

Just yesterday I took a drive out in my car. During the drive I had an altercation with a professional (van) driver, who thought I’d dangerously cut him up, when entering a roundabout. There was no collision and no brakes were applied, yet the angry driver insisted on pulling up alongside me, in order to scream and rant about my poor driving. His parting shot was a beauty: “You shouldn’t be on the fucking roads mate!” The fact, he was the professional driver, losing his temper, is perhaps besides the point.

It is only matter of opinion anyway. ‘Making good progress’ is how, as a qualified advanced driver, I would have termed my particular driving style. Safe driving, is making good progress, whilst at the same time, avoiding causing other drivers to change speed or direction. This was my driving style. The van driver had other concerns though. His real concern was this: I’d taken his power.

The section of road he saw in front of him was his and his alone, so for me, to safely and keenly ‘beat him to it,’ as it were, annoyed and frightened him. I took his power, and no human likes that. The alternative, is a calm driver – who manages to stay calm in similar circumstances – through seeing the road, as belonging to all of us. If someone safely beats us to it, then good luck to them.

“This opinion is gained through experience and of course recognition that power over others is but an illusion”

I may seem to have gone of the point slightly, however, the subtle shifts in power, through the games humans play, can, when we look at them objectively, seem a little petty. I suppose my gentle examples, given above, have been intended as a means of highlighting this.

And so, what exactly do we have to gain, through road rage or indeed through the murder, and/or abuse of others? Ultimately we gain nothing except the fleeting illusion that we’ve somehow gained the upper hand. It links closely with the game of one-up-man-ship discussed in an earlier post.  

“I believe the Greeks very cleverly understood the competitive nature of humans, and looked to channel this, through their creation of the Olympic games”

Channelling competitiveness – and the human need for power over each other – is using this often ugly trait (to some) in a positive way.

So why do we need this power over others? Well here’s the thing: analysing that need, is pointless. There is nothing to gain from understanding a trait that’s ugly when directionless, yet we do gain immensely, when we understand how the need to dominate each other, can be channelled.

Even when given channelled-direction, and to the detriment of the Greeks and their creation of this, there are those whose need for dominance holds no bounds. You see, not everyone, plays fair. Oh no.

“Potentially, and in this instance, analysing why is useful”

It’s simple, not everyone plays fair because losing adds further damage to their weakness of character. Those who can’t stand to lose, will do all in their power to ensure they don’t, and this includes, cheating. What the cheat is failing to see is, they will always, be exposed.

Exposure fulfils a fear they can’t cope with: losing. They can’t cope with giving a little of their power away. In the end the cheat always loses. Fears are self fulfilling. This is a very important understanding to gain, if you’re playing to win, simply because you can’t stand to lose.

“It is said, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part that counts”

Even this has been dismissed as something ‘only a loser would say.’ Such is the competitive nature of ‘winners.’ Far better to teach a child: when you win, do this with humility and grace, and you’ll grow to be a good man. And if you lose, respect the greater skill of the man who wins.

Respect – from a man who loses – is only gained when winning is done through giving the proper merit and consideration for fellow competitors; in whatever this may be. We must be aware, if it wasn’t for those who gracefully give some of their power to the winners, the games would simply cease. Where’s the fun in that?

Winning and losing can potentially be seen in equal measure if we recognise that competition must be kept healthy. It’s the only way we’ll  make it as a species. Learn to make good progress with safety.