Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Power Is Poisonous

"I felt physically sick. It was a long time since I had received a letter from my wife. I had forced her to write it and I could feel her pain in every line. Her pain struck at my pain: we were back at the old routine of hurting each other. If only it were possible to love without injury - fidelity isn't enough: I had been faithful to Anne and yet I had injured her. The hurt is in the act of possession: we are too small in mind and body to possess another person without pride or to be possessed without humiliation."

Graham Greene, The Quiet American

This applies equally well to considerations of power. We are too small, in mind and body, to hold power over another person without pride, or to be at the mercy of somebody else's power without humiliation. Whenever I interact with police, there is a constant undercurrent of humiliation - often it takes me a few hours to notice how it affected my actions. Whenever I am made responsible for a child, say, I have to consciously ignore my feeling of pride, with varying degrees of success. Power is poisonous: it introduces negative elements to any relationship by the very fact of its existence. A king can never be friends with a subject. Anyone who says otherwise has either accepted humiliation as a way of life or is unwilling to recognize their own pride.

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