On Power

I saw this quote in an article this week.

Dumbledore to Harry:

It’s a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.  Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

We have politicians, not leaders.

We have elected officials, not public servants.  

We’ve been seeing this over and over again in the US and in Israel.  Trump is facing an impaneled grand jury set to deal with the Russia investigation and Netanyahu is facing his own potential indictments for corruption with a former chief of staff turning state’s witness.  It’s not a good time for either the US or Israel.

The common saying is “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s usually used against people who try to gain absolute power, but I think we tend to forget that any amount of power has the potential to corrupt.  We see these corruption scandals and we shout from the rooftops, “Why? Why would they [fill in the crime]?”  The answer is not a complex psychological evaluation of each individual person.  The answer is they do these things because they think they can get away with it.  They do them because they can.

Of course we must resist and say “No!” But we have to do it without getting drunk on our own power, drowning in our viral videos, or sharpening knives of snarky anonymity. That power too can corrupt.

What can we do?

Vote. Obviously.  It would be better to vote with our consciences, for someone we actually believe in rather than the lesser of two evils. Elect officials that represent the best parts of ourselves.

I know. We lack good candidates. Who wants to be a leader today? Who wants to be a public servant? People want six-figure salaries, great benefits (especially health insurance in the US), and plenty of vacation time to get away from all their responsibilities.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

The truth is that we can’t change other people.  We can only change ourselves.

Maybe if more people decided that “if it bleeds, it leads” was awful and voted with their money to not support news outlets that operate that way and choose instead to support responsible journalism, we would get real, informative, considered news.

Maybe if we made media choices based on human values, we wouldn’t encourage snark, insults, bias, xenophobia, and clever meanness on every form of media.

Are we drawn to a Cult of Personality, or are we choosing our representatives based on their vision for the future?

“It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.” – Bob Dylan

Bob wasn’t talking about society with this lyric, but it’s appropriate. Until more people make better choices, we are going to have politicians, not leaders. We are going to have elected officials, not public servants.  We will value people who are famous for being famous, not smart people who want to make the world better.  And we will worship anonymously in the Cult of Snark and take no responsibility for anything since it’s always someone else’s fault.


Unless I’ve inspired you. And you can inspire someone else. And that person can inspire someone else. Then maybe, just maybe, politicians will lead, elected officials will serve the public, people will be famous for real accomplishments, and we can all be nicer to one another.

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